What’s the Buzz

The Bee Healthy Blog

Group B Strep Awareness

Group B Strep Awareness

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you should know about Group B Strep (GBS). Unlike Group A Strep, which is responsible for a variety of conditions including strep throat, impetigo, toxic shock syndrome, and more, GBS lives in the gastrointestinal and genital tracts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease and the only known way to pass it to another person is through the birth canal. That is why pregnant women should be tested for GBS before birth to reduce the risk of transmission to newborns.

Who is Most at Risk?

1 in 4 pregnant women will be carriers of GBS. Other adults with certain conditions are at increased risk, however. Adults with diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure, cancer or a history of cancer, and obesity are at risk. There is also considerable increased risk as adults get older and reach 65 years of age. The spread of GBS among adults is generally unknown, so the best prevention is healthy living. Women who are pregnant will be tested toward the end of pregnancy so that precautions can be made to prevent transmission to the newborn. GBS disease is most common in newborns.

Two Main Types of GBS in Newborns

There are two main types of GBS in newborns: early-onset and late-onset. Early onset occurs during the first week of life and late onset occurs within the first three months of life. Each year about 930 babies in the United States get early-onset GBS and about 1,050 babies get late-onset GBS disease. Through proactive prenatal care, these numbers have decreased over the years, but sadly up to three out of every fifty newborns who develop GBS disease will die. Others may experience complications associated with meningitis and bloodstream infections.

Preventing and Treating GBS

A pregnant woman is tested for GBS at 37 weeks. If the GBS test is positive, a mother-to-be is given antibiotics by IV during labor. This treatment alone brings the likelihood of passing on GBS to the newborn from 1 in 200 to 1 in 4,000.

The success of treatment often depends on early diagnosis for both infants and elderly adults. Unfortunately, GBS disease goes unnoticed in adults, living in the bowel, vagina, rectum, bladder, and throat with no signs whatsoever. In some cases, GBS disease is diagnosed in adults who have recurring urinary tract infections or blood infections. This is one reason why adults, especially over 65 years old, should see a doctor regularly to diagnose and treat serious conditions that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Research and Vaccine Development

Like many diseases, Group B Strep is researched thoroughly in hopes of developing a vaccine for future generations. Group B Strep Awareness Month is not only a good time to raise awareness of the existence of GBS, but the global threat of GBS and the good that a vaccine may do in countries with less-advanced medical technology. To find out more about Group B Strep, visit Group B Strep International.