What is...? Group B strep


Group B strep (streptococcus) is a common type of bacterium is carried in the intestinal or genital tract. This bacteria can cause serious illness in newborns. While usually harmless in healthy adults, it can be dangerous in adults who are older, immunocompromised, or have chronic conditions like liver disease or diabetes.

Many healthy people carry group B strep bacteria in their bodies. Group B strep bacteria are not  sexually transmitted, and does not spread through food or water. Group B strep can be carried in your body for just a short period of time, it may come and go, or you may always have it.

Illness caused by group B strep in infants usually have symptoms that include fever, trouble feeding and lethargy.  Adults who are at risk may get a urinary tract or blood infection, or pneumonia.  

Diagnosis of group B strep infection and group B strep disease occur when the bacteria are grown from cultures of fluid samples. These cultures can take several days to grow.

Common treatment for group B strep is antibiotics.  If you have tested positive during pregnancy, intravenous (IV) antibiotics will be given when labor begins. A baby which tests positive for group B strep, will be given IV antibiotics. Sometimes, IV fluids, oxygen or other medications, may be needed as well. Antibiotics are also an effective treatment for group B strep infection in adults. 

  • In the United States, group B strep bacteria are the leading cause of meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain) and sepsis (the body's life-threatening response to infection) in a newborn’s first week of life (early-onset disease).

  • About 1 out of every 4 pregnant women carry group B strep bacteria in the rectum or vagina. Group B strep bacteria may come and go in people’s bodies without symptoms.

  • Pregnant woman should be tested for group B strep bacteria when they are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant.

  • A pregnant woman who tests positive for group B strep bacteria and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop group B strep disease, compared to a 1 in 200 chance if she does not.

  • Any pregnant woman who had a baby with group B strep disease in the past, or who has had group B strep in their urine during this pregnancy caused by group B strep should get antibiotics during labor.

  • Most early-onset group B strep disease in newborns can be prevented by giving pregnant women antibiotics (medicine that kills bacteria in the body) through the vein (IV) during labor.

  • Newborns are at increased risk for a group B strep disease if their mother tests positive for group B strep bacteria during pregnancy.

  • The antibiotics used to prevent early-onset group B strep disease in newborns only help during labor — they can’t be taken before labor, because the bacteria can grow back quickly.

  • The rate of serious group B strep disease increases with age; average age of cases in non-pregnant adults is about 60 years old.

-Novoclinical Journal Staff

-Original Publish Date August 2017