Pregnant Women Can Now Test At Home For Group B Streptococcus
According to the HSE, one in five pregnant women carry the Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria in their vagina and/or digestive system, but universal screening of carriers of GBS bacteria is not offered in Ireland.
GBS bacteria are usually not harmful (infections affect only one in every 2,000 births) but they can be passed from mother to child during labour and can be highly dangerous for newborn infants.
However, universal screening of carriers of GBS bacteria is not currently an option in Ireland, unlike countries such as the USA, France, Germany, Poland and many others. Therefore, healthcare professionals take a preventative approach to treating GBS infection by trying to identify babies at high risk of developing an infection.
At present, if a doctor is concerned about a risk, antibiotics are administered during labour to prevent the bacteria spreading to the baby. But now a new commercially available home-test called Strepelle will enable women to find out if they are carrying group B Strep during their pregnancy.
Jane Plumb, CEO of the charity Group B Strep Support, says pregnant women are rarely offered testing,
"If they are, a 'gold-standard' test is seldom available. With this test, we are confident that more babies will be protected from preventable group B Strep infection."
Babies with GBS infection may be very sleepy, floppy and not feed well. Other symptoms can include grunting, a high or low temperature, abnormally fast or slow heart rate or breathing rate, irritability, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar.
Brendan Farrell, of HiberGene Diagnostics who make the test, says it will help women to make informed choices about what is best for them and their baby,
"Identifying pregnant women likely to be carrying group B Strep and giving them IV penicillin during labour can reduce group B Strep infection in newborn babies by over eighty percent."
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