Group B streptococcus (GBS) is bacteria that can cause serious illness, particularly in newborns. It is responsible for many cases of
meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, in infants, as well as some cases of blood infections (sepsis) and
Early onset disease infections occur within the first week of life. These babies typically contract GBS from their mothers before or during birth.
Premature newborns are more likely to develop GBS infections than full-term infants.
Late onset disease infections occur a bit later, after a week of age, and through the first 3 months of life. Bacteria can be contracted from the mother, other children, family members, and other caregivers.
Signs and Symptoms:
A baby infected with GBS may have symptoms such as:
When to call your pediatrician:
If your newborn has any of the above symptoms, contact your pediatrician at once.
How the diagnosis is made:
If your doctor thinks that your baby could have a GBS infection, the pediatrician will take a culture from the infant's blood or spinal fluid and send it to the laboratory for testing and diagnosis. The pediatrician may also take a chest x-ray to confirm a diagnosis of pneumonia.
Newborns with GBS infections should be treated with intravenous antibiotics such as ampicillin, gentamicin, penicillin, or another
antibiotic such as a cephalosporin.
Early onset GBS infections in newborns can often be prevented if infected pregnant women take intravenous (never by mouth) antibiotics when they are giving birth, typically when labor begins.
There are currently no vaccines against GBS infections, although several are being studied.