I know that this infection can have a devastating effect for some mothers and their babies.
There are roughly 400 to 500 cases of early onset Group B Streptococcus (GBS) each year, and the vast majority of babies affected will fully recover with prompt treatment. The UK NSC also stresses the importance of not prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has published guidelines outlining the steps required to effectively prevent and treat GBS infections.
In March 2017, the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), which advises ministers in all four UK countries on all aspects of screening, concluded that it would not recommend a national screening programme for GBS in pregnancy. This is because, unfortunately, the current test cannot accurately distinguish between those mothers whose babies are at risk, and those who are not.
However, I welcome that a National Institute for Health Research funded clinical trial is comparing universal screening for GBS with two other approaches for identifying GBS: through an antenatal Enriched Culture Medium test at 35 - 37 weeks, or a rapid point of care Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test during labour.
Maternity care is a priority for Government, and it has announced an ambition to reduce stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and neonatal brain injuries by 50 per cent by 2025. This includes harm and death caused by GBS.