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Group B Strep: A Threat to Newborns That Doesn't Have to Be
Date:9/8/2007

Antibiotics during delivery protect against potentially deadly infection

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- One in four women carries the bacterium Group B streptococcus, the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns. Yet most women don't know it.

That same germ can wreak havoc on a newborn child, with infection during birth possibly leading to blindness, deafness, retardation, physical disability and, in the worst cases, death.

There's a simple test that can determine whether a pregnant woman carries GBS, and an effective antibiotic therapy for protecting her child during delivery. Yet, approximately one of every 100 to 200 babies whose mothers carry GBS will become infected and need treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It can kill and maim, and 90 percent of it is preventable," said Dr. James A. McGregor, visiting professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. "How often in life do you get the chance to prevent 90 percent of something awful?"

As a result, doctors are urging women to make sure they are tested for presence of the bacterium -- and that they make sure steps are taken during delivery to protect their baby.

With a swab of a woman's rectum and vagina, doctors can determine whether she carries GBS.

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada have guidelines that recommend that doctors screen every pregnant woman for GBS. The screening should take place between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy. If a woman hasn't received a GBS screening by then, she should ask her doctor about it, according to the guidelines.

If a woman tests positive for GBS, she should be given intravenous antibiotics for at least four hours before she delivers, the guidelines sa
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