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Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011 Oct;16(5):254-8. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Myth: Group B streptococcal infection in pregnancy: comprehended and conquered.

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Division of Surgery and Oncology, Imperial College London, UK.


Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a common inhabitant of the bowel, and frequently colonises the vagina. It rarely causes disease, except in neonates, where it is the most common cause of serious neonatal infection. Although GBS can be transmitted sexually, it is common even in adults who have never been sexually active and is not a sexually transmitted disease. Currently, the most widely used effective method for detecting colonisation is taking a low vaginal and rectal swab and culturing GBS using enriched media culture. GBS cannot reliably be eradicated by antibiotic treatment but intravenous penicillin given to the mother during labour can prevent up to 90% of early onset GBS disease. Screening and antibiotic prophylaxis has resulted in an 80% fall in early onset disease in the USA, and has been successfully implemented in many countries. There is no systematic screening in the UK, where the incidence continues to rise.

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