Clinical Trial into UK Group B Strep Prevention Announced

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Hands holding a petri dish with a pink liquid in

The National Institute for Health Research has today announced a large clinical trial into the approaches used by the UK to prevent group B strep (GBS) infection in newborn babies. Currently a “risk-based” approach is used to identify women who may be at greater risk of passing GBS to their child, but the study will compare this to the effectiveness of testing women for GBS at two different points during their pregnancy.

The trial will involve 80 hospitals across the UK, and has a budget of £2.8 million pounds.

We work closely with GBSS, a group B strep charity that provides support to families affected by the illness. Jane Plumb MBE, the founder and Chief Executive, said:

“The current UK policy on group B Strep is not working. The number of babies suffering group B Strep infections has risen not fallen despite the introduction of the risk-based prevention strategy in 2003.

“After routine testing was introduced in the United States, the rate dropped by over 80 per cent and their rate of early-onset GBS infections (those in the first six days of life) is now less than half that of the UK. If the rate was reduced in the UK in the same way, we could prevent group B Strep infections in approximately 350 babies every year, saving 15 babies’ lives and protecting another 15 from life-changing disability.  The results of this important trial will drive improvements in UK policy and lead to fewer babies and their families suffering the trauma that group B Strep infection can bring,”

Claire Stoneman - Enable Law

Our own Claire Stoneman has helped families affected by late diagnosis of GBS, and she welcomes the news of the trial:

“I am so pleased that the National Institute for Health Research has agreed to fund this trial looking at the current practices for screening (based on risk factors) and comparing that with 2 testing approaches.

“Most GBS infections occur during the first week of a baby’s life and can cause septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis.  The long term implications of these infections are life changing and can lead to deafness, blindness, learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and even death (2 babies every week die or are disabled by GBS infection).

“Enable Law represents families of those babies who have been disabled or sadly pass away.  I cannot put into words how devastating it is to hear their story knowing that testing for GBS could have made a difference.  This trial should provide important data to shape the UK’s future prevention strategy which ultimately I hope will lead to improvements and a reduction in the incidence of Group B Strep infection.”

If your family has been affected by group B strep, and you would like legal advice, please click here to contact us.