Group B Strep Disease

1 What is Group B Strep Disease?

Group B streptococcus commonly referred to as (strep) is a bacterium that thrives in the intestines or lower genital tracts.

Group B strep is known to be harmless in adults. But when present in the newborns, it can cause serious illness which is referred to as the group B strep disease. This can however be responsible for serious illnesses in adults with other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or liver disease.

Older adults may be at increased risk of illness as a result of the group B strep too. Nothing may be needed for healthy adults with group B strep.

When pregnant, it is recommended that a strep B screening test can be done in your third trimester. Antibiotics are known to protect from group B strep even while in labor.

Have a question aboutStreptococcal Infections?Ask a doctor now

2 Symptoms

In newborns with early onset group B strep infection, the signs and symptoms usually develop within the first 24 hours of life. 

It is shown that most of the babies born from women with group B strep are healthy. However, those infected during labor may become critically ill.

In infants, group B strep may be that of the early onset or late onset. In the early onset group B strep disease, the baby becomes sick in one week after birth.

The disease may be characterized by:

Late onset group B disease develops after a week to a month after birth.

This may be characterized by difficulty in:

In adults carrying the group B strep, in your bowel, vagina, rectum, bladder or throat. They may not have any symptoms or signs. In some cases, they may be responsible for urinary tract infections and even more serious infections such as blood infection (bacteremia) or pneumonia.

It is recommended that done needs to see a doctor as soon as possible. More especially when they are pregnant. The same case needs to be done for an infant with signs or symptoms of the disease.

3 Causes

Group B strep disease is caused by bacteria from the species and genus Streptococcus agalactiae.

It is known that most of the healthy people may possess the group B strep in their bodies.

This bacteria is not sexually transmitted, and neither are they through food and water.

They may also come and go when you have them in your body.

During child birth, the bacteria can spread to your baby especially they are exposed or swallow fluid containing group B strep.

Adults with chronic conditions can develop more serious complications with group B strep.

The reason why this may not occur in some people is currently not known.

4 Making a Diagnosis

In newborns and in adults, isolation of the Group B strep bacteria is necessary for a definitive diagnosis. 

It is recommended that all pregnant women need to be screened for group B strep between weeks 35 and 37 of pregnancy.

A swab sample from your vagina and rectum will be collected and the samples sent to the lab for testing.

A positive test will be an indication of the presence of group B strep. This may not imply that one is sick and that your baby will be affected.

This is a suggestion for the potential infection of the newborn. This will also allow for positive steps that will ensure that the baby is protected.

In case a baby is suspected of having group B strep disease, a sample of the babies blood or spinal fluid will be collected for examination in the lab.

Diagnosis requires the growing of group B strep in cultures of fluid samples. This may also take several days (2 or 3 days) to grow before the results can be analyzed. 

5 Treatment

In adults, antibiotics are the most effective treatment for the group B strep disease.

Positive group B strep test suggests that one needs to receive an intravenous antibiotic that will be able to destroy the bacteria.

In most cases, IV fluids, oxygen and other forms of medications will be used.

The selection of the antibiotic relies on the location and extends of the infection.

For pregnant women, oral antibiotics are preferred such as penicillin or cephalexin that is considered safe during pregnancy.

6 Prevention

The best measure for preventing group B strep disease is through routine screening during pregnancy.

To reduce the spreading of the bacteria to your baby when pregnant, the doctor will give an antibiotic IV just at the start of labor pains.

In case of being allergic to penicillin, one will be given clindamycin or a equal alternative. Use of oral antibiotics may not be of help since the bacterium can return even before the start of the labor pain.

Antibiotics before labor is preferred more especially when one has urinary tract infection, delivered a baby previously with group B strep disease, one develops fever during labor.

One has not delivered the baby within 18 hours of water breaking; one goes into labor before 37 weeks. Antibiotic therapy may not be needed when one will deliver using a C- section unless the water breaks or labor begins before surgery.

When one is positive for group B strep, inform the health care team in advance during labor. Also, know that group B strep does not affects one’s ability to breast feed.

A vaccine is in development and this will be a solution in the near future in the prevention of the group B strep infections.

7 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with group B strep disease.

Infants are at risk of developing group B strep disease:

  • only of the mother carries the group B strep in her body,
  • the baby is born prematurely(before 37 weeks),
  • the mother water breaks 18 hours earlier,
  • the mother has an infection of the placental tissues, and amniotic fluid (chorioamniotis),
  • group B bacteria has been detected in the mother’s urine at pregnancy (current or previous),
  • mother’s temperature is greater than 100F during labor,
  • mother delivered an infant previously with group B strep disease.

On the other hand, adults are at increased risk of infection when the medical condition affects their immune system such as:

Complications in infants include:

  • the inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia) membrances and fluids surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis),
  • infection of the blood (bacteremia),
  • when pregnant and group B strep induces injury to the placenta and amniotic fluid.
  • It can also cause inflammation of the membrane lining the uterus (endometritis),
  • infection of the blood stream (sepsis).

When older and suffering from a chronic condition, group B  strep infection may cause:

  • skin infection (cellulitis),
  • infection of blood stream (sepsis),
  • urinary tract infection,
  • inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia),
  • bone and joints, heart valves (endocarditis),
  • membranes and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).