Group B streptococcal septicemia is a severe bacterial infection that affects newborn infants.
See also: Neonatal sepsis
Septicemia is an infection in the bloodstream that may travel to different body organs. Group B streptococcal septicemia is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae, which is commonly called "group B strep" or GBS. A newborn with septicemia is very sick.
GBS is commonly found in adults and older children, where it does not usually cause infection. There are two ways in which it may be passed to a newborn baby:
GBS now occurs less often, because now there are methods to screen and treat pregnant women at risk.
The following increase an infant's risk for group B streptococcal septicemia:
To diagnose GBS septicemia, GBS bacteria must be found in a sample of blood (blood culture) taken from a sick newborn.
Other tests that may be done include:
Treatment may involve one or more of the following:
A therapy called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be used in very severe cases.
This disease can be life threatening without prompt treatment.
Possible complications include:
This disease is usually diagnosed shortly after birth, often while the baby is still in the hospital.
However, if you have a newborn at home who shows symptoms of this condition, seek immediate emergency medical help or call the local emergency number (such as 911).
Parents should watch for symptoms in their baby's first 6 weeks. The early stages of this disease can produce symptoms that are hard to spot.
To help reduce the risk of Group B streptococcal septicemia, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women get tested for group B streptococcus at 35 - 37 weeks into their pregnancy. If the bacteria are detected, women are given antibiotics through a vein during labor. If the mother goes into premature labor before 35 weeks, she should be tested for GBS.
Newborns who are at high risk are tested for GBS infection. They may receive antibiotics through a vein during the first 48 hours of life until blood culture results are available.
In all cases, proper hand washing by nursery caretakers, visitors, and parents can help prevent the spread of the bacteria after the infant is born.
An early diagnosis can help decrease the risk of some complications.
Group B strep; GBS
Verani JR, McGee L, Schrage SJ. Prevention of perinatal group B streptococcal disease: revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 59 (RR-10): 1–35, 2010 (Nov. 19).
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Group B streptococcal infections, in Section 3:Summaries of infectious diseases. Red Book 2009.
Updated by: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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