Group B Streptococcal Disease

(GBS)

Definition

Group B streptococcal (GBS) disease is a bacterial infection. GBS can cause illness in newborn babies, pregnant women, the elderly, and adults with other chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or liver disease. In newborns, it is the most common cause of a blood infection called sepsis and of meningitis, which is an infection of the fluid and lining surrounding the brain. This following information covers GBS in pregnant women and their babies.

Causes

GBS is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus agalactiae . These bacteria live in the gastrointestinal and genital tracts. They are found in the vaginal or rectal areas of 10% to 35% of all healthy adult women. Only a small number of babies who are exposed to the bacteria will become infected. If infection occurs, it can be serious. Newborn babies can become infected with GBS in three ways:
  • Before birth, bacteria in the vagina can spread up the birth canal into the uterus and infect the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. The baby becomes infected by inhaling the infected fluid.
  • During delivery, by contact with bacteria in the birth canal
  • After birth, by close physical contact with the mother
Vaginal Bacteria Spreading to Fetus
DW00030 96472 1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of a baby having GBS include the following:
  • Mother currently has GBS in her vaginal or rectal area—This is confirmed by a lab test between weeks 35-37 of pregnancy.
  • Mother is GBS positive and does not get antibiotics at least 4 hours before delivery
  • Mother had a previous baby with GBS disease
  • Mother has a urinary tract infection due to GBS
  • Labor or rupture of the membranes before 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Rupture of the membranes for 18 hours or more before delivery
  • Mother has a fever during labor
  • Frequent vaginal examinations during labor
  • Use of intrauterine fetal monitoring devices

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