Backing Group B Strep Awareness Month

Young Mikey Walsh was a whirlwind visitor to my Morley office last week. When I first met Mikey, his sister Bethany and his mum, Natasha, it was his mum who did most of the talking. This time, there was no stopping Mikey and you certainly wouldn’t guess that this was a little boy who’d almost died when he was first born.

Yet, when he was just a few hours old, Mikey was already unwell. After three days, losing weight and very poorly indeed, meningitis was diagnosed and MIkey was on life-support. He’s since been diagnosed with Cerebal Palsy on one side of his body.

When he was born, Mikey was infected by Group B Strep, a bacteria which can develop into other thing, in Mikey’s case, meningitis. Group B Strep is a normal bacteria carried by around one in four women. Most have no idea they carry it. It only starts to cause problems if it’s passed to a baby during childbirth. Every year around 700 babies are infected and it’s the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborn babies.

But as Natasha and husband Chris explained to me, there is a simple test for group B Strep which can be done in the late stages of pregnancy to test for the bacteria, allowing treatment to be given to the mother during labour which then prevents infoection in the baby.

In some countries, screening for Group B Strep is routine in late pregnancy. It is a routine part of antenatal care in Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain and the USA. In these countries there’s been a dramatic reduction in infections of newborn babies. But in the UK it’s not currently recommended because of the potential harm any treatment for the bacteria might cause women or babies.

I’m writing to the Heath Secretary to ask for the comparative data from the countries where the screening has been introduced. That way we can better understand the reasons for some countries using the screening test and why it’s not recommended by the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence here in the UK.

You can read the full article from the Yorkshire Post on their website here.

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Posted July 30th, 2013 by Ed