Group B Strep Support

November 04, 2005 10:45 ET

Group B Strep Support - David Cameron MP delivers petition to Downing Street, calling for action to protect newborn babies

LONDON, ENGLAND--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 04, 2005) - David Cameron, MP, will be taking members of the national charity, Group B Strep Support, to Downing Street to deliver a petition of over 4500 signatures on Tuesday, 8th November 2005 at 4.00 pm.

The petition calls for the Government to ensure sensitive testing for group B Streptococcus (GBS) carriage is routinely and freely available for all pregnant women in the UK and that relevant health professionals are fully informed about GBS so they can advise expectant parents in their care.

GBS is the UK's most common cause of bacterial infection in newborn babies. Without preventative medicine, approximately 1 in every 1,000 UK babies develops GBS infection - 700 babies each year (research suggests this may be a significant underestimate) killing 75 sick babies and leaving another 40 with serious long-term mental or physical problems.

Giving antibiotics through a vein from the beginning of labour to women in certain recognised higher-risk situations, including to women who carry GBS late in pregnancy, could prevent over 80% of GBS infections in newborn babies. However, routine testing for GBS carriage isn't currently recommended in the UK and, even when women are offered this, the test widely available within the NHS is highly insensitive, giving up to half of women carrying GBS at the time a falsely negative result. Sensitive, safe tests exist and are routinely available in other countries, all of which have seen their rates of GBS infection in newborn babies plummet after introducing screening.

At present in the UK, sensitive testing is only available from a couple of hospitals and one private laboratory, although the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has recently issued their Bacteriology Standard Operating Procedure (BSOP) No 58 Screening swabs for Group B Streptococcal Carriage which recommends sensitive testing methods for GBS carriage, which are also recognised as optimal by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Unfortunately, most NHS laboratories do not use this procedure.

David Cameron, who has been supporting the charity's campaign since 2003, comments, "Illness and death caused by GBS are usually preventable. I call on the Government to introduce a national screening programme and also to ensure that mothers and those working in the National Health Service know more about GBS."

Professor Philip Steer, Chairman of Group B Strep Support's Medical Advisory Panel adds, "Fortunately, thanks to the activities of Group B Strep Support, awareness of this problem amongst the medical and midwifery professions and amongst the general public is rising, and the toll of death and disability is slowly being reduced. But there is still a long way to go. Despite the efforts of Group B Strep Support, too many pregnant women have still never heard of the disease and can't, therefore, take steps to protect themselves and their babies. Even in 2005, many midwives and obstetricians don't fully appreciate that most GBS infections can be prevented. GBSS is targeting this knowledge gap."

Caroline Weston will be joining David and other members of Group B Strep Support on 8th November when they deliver the petition to Downing Street. Caroline's first child, Thomas, had a GBS infection shortly after his birth in 2002. He made a full recovery. Sadly, no preventative measures were taken when her second child, Erin, was born in May 2003 and she died 4 days after her birth as a result of GBS infection. With her third child, Caroline received the recommended antibiotics in labour and Ciara was born healthy and free from GBS in September 2004. This powerfully illustrates the heartache GBS can cause when appropriate action is not taken against the threat of GBS.

-ENDS-

Caroline & Darren Weston - GBSS can provide more information about Caroline's story, together with photos.
Tel: 01483 799382 / Mobile: 07871 157799 / E-mail: cw9879@yahoo.co.uk


Notes to editors

1. Group B Strep Support (GBSS) is a UK charity set up to prevent GBS infection in newborn babies. Jane & Robert Plumb founded GBSS following the death of their second child, Theo, from GBS in 1996; they had a healthy child, Camilla, in August 1998.
2. Most pregnant women have not heard of GBS. It would be helpful if you would publish the charity's website and/or phone number.
3. GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK. Without preventative medicine, GBS infects up to 700 babies a year, killing an estimated 75 of them and leaving another 40 with serious long-term mental or physical problems.
4. At present, the reliable tests are only available from one private laboratory, which offers a postal service for GBP32. Free GBS screening packs can be obtained from The Doctors Laboratory by telephoning 020 7307 7373 or e-mailing them at gbs@tdlpathology.com . More information is contained in their leaflet at http://www.gbss.org.uk/GBS_postcard.pdf .
5. GBSS does not have the resources to deal with requests from health professionals for free GBS screening packs. It would, therefore, be helpful to publish the telephone number given above for The Doctors Laboratory.
6. So far, 86 MP's have signed David Cameron's all-party Early Day Motion No 538 about GBS. This is his third EDM about GBS - 228 MPs from all parties signed EDM 1211 in 2002/3 and 214 signed EDM 973 in 2003/4, making them amongst the most highly supported of the last two parliamentary sessions, showing that MPs across all parties consider this a very serious issue.
7. Group B Strep Support (GBSS) endorses the availability of reliable prenatal screening for GBS colonisation but has no particular links nor receives any money from any laboratory. GBSS wants to see the ECM test available routinely to all pregnant women on the NHS but, until it is, is supporting the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists' national guidelines for a risk-factor approach to preventing GBS infection in newborn babies.
8. More information on GBS, including additional quotes, individual families experiences of GBS or contact with the charity's medical advisers, is available from Jane Plumb.
GBS: The Facts
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is carried by roughly one in three adults in their intestines, and a quarter of women carry it in their vagina, with no symptoms.

GBS is the most common cause of bacterial infection in newborn babies. It is estimated that, without preventative medicine, approximately:

* 700 babies (1 in 1,000) develop GBS infection each year, most commonly septicaemia, pneumonia and/or meningitis
* 75 babies (just over 10% of infected babies) die from GBS infection each year, and up to 40 survivors are left with long-term mental and/or physical handicaps
* Up to 80 per cent of all GBS infection in babies develops in the first 2 days of life and GBS infection is very rare indeed after age 3 months

Who is most at risk of GBS infection?
Each one of the following increases the risk to babies of developing GBS infection between 3 and 10 times:

* where a mother has previously had a baby with GBS infection;
* where GBS is found in the pregnant woman during the present pregnancy;
* where the pregnant woman has a raised temperature in labour;
* where labour or membrane rupture is preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy); and/or
* where there is prolonged rupture of membranes (more than 18-24 hours prior to delivery).

How can the risk of GBS infection in a baby be reduced?
Offering intravenous antibiotics at regular intervals from the start of labour to pregnant women with any of the above 'risk factors' significantly reduces the likelihood of a baby developing GBS infection.
Can I find out if I carry GBS?
The NHS does not routinely test for GBS and the test they use (a high vaginal swab) gives up to 50% false negatives. A highly reliable ECM (enriched culture medium) test exists, but is only currently available from a couple of NHS hospitals, and privately by The Doctors Laboratory in London (GBP32 for a postal service).

To best predict GBS status at delivery, the test should be carried out after 35 and before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Where can you get help?
If you're concerned about GBS, speak to your midwife or GP.

Information on GBS is available for families and health professionals from the charity, Group B Strep Support, telephone: 01444 416176 or visit: www.gbss.org.uk

For more information about the ECM test, contact The Doctors Laboratory on 020 7460 4800 or at gbs@tdlplc.co.uk.

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