Ten years after its launch, the charity Group B Strep Support (GBSS) says it's a shameful tragedy that 75 newborn babies will die in the UK this year from an infection that is easily preventable. Most people have never heard of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) and, staggeringly, many GP's and midwives remain ill informed about life-saving preventative measures. The charity is calling for medical professionals to be better informed, urgently.
Professor Philip Steer, Professor of Obstetrics at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Chair of the GBSS medical advisory panel says:
"Midwives, GP's and obstetricians should be aware that most GBS infections could be prevented. They must be at the forefront of the battle to end the unnecessary suffering caused by this deadly infection."
Jane and Robert Plumb set up GBSS after losing their second child, Theo, to the infection. The charity is also calling on the government to ensure reliable testing for GBS is routinely offered to all pregnant women and available on the NHS.
Jane Plumb says:
"It's scandalous that so many babies are still dying needlessly. All relevant health professionals should know how GBS infection in babies can be prevented. And every pregnant woman should be informed about GBS so she can protect her baby."
More information on GBS is available from Jane Plumb, Chairman, Group B Strep Support. Including interviews with families who have experience of GBS infection in newborns, or contact with the charity's medical advisors.
Tel: 0870 803 0023
Notes to editors:
1. September 20th 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the inception of Group B Strep Support (GBSS), a UK charity set up to prevent GBS infection in newborn babies. Jane and Robert Plumb founded GBSS following the death of their second child, Theo, from GBS in 1996; they had a healthy child, Camilla, in August 1998.
2. GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK. Without preventative medicine, GBS infects up to 700 babies a year, killing an estimated 75 and leaving 40 with serious long-term mental or physical problems.
3. GBS is a normal bacterium carried by up to 30% of adults. It can be passed from mother to baby during labour. For most babies this causes no problems: for others it can be deadly, causing blood poisoning and meningitis. A reliable test to check for GBS in pregnant women, routinely used in the USA and elsewhere, is only available privately in the UK. Evidence shows that screening with this method - and giving intravenous antibiotic injections during labour to women at higher risk of passing on the bacteria - would prevent up to 80% of all GBS infections in newborn babies. At present only 3,000 women are tested each year in the UK - less than 0.5% of pregnant women.
4. Reliable tests for GBS are only readily available from one private laboratory in the UK. Packs containing the necessary swabs can be obtained free, and a postal service for carrying out the test costs £32. Please contact The Doctors Laboratory on 020 7307 7373 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is contained in their leaflet at http://www.gbss.org.uk/GBS_postcard.pdf.