A London mum whose baby developed meningitis after contracting Group B Strep has called for greater awareness of the disease and backed an NHS trial seeking to increase early detection and diagnosis.
Nicki Droy’s daughter Mia was diagnosed with late-onset GBS infection at 13 days old in January. Ms Droy had already tested positive for GBS during her pregnancy, but only found out that the test existed from her own research.
Most countries in Europe and the US offer pregnant woman a GBS test late in pregnancy, but the NHS continues to employ a “risk-based approach” to identify which infants are most likely to develop an infection. Women must instead pay around £40 for a private test.
GBS is carried by between 20 and 40 per cent of women in their rectum, vagina, or intestines, according to Group B Strep Support. While usually harmless, there is a risk that women carrying the bacteria can pass it onto their baby during labour and childbirth. If left untreated, it can cause sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns.
Mia was taken to A&E after she woke up in the night crying in an unusual way and developed a temperature. Tests later revealed that she had GBS meningitis.
Ms Droy, 35, from Barnet, told the Standard: “We were devastated when we found out that Mia had meningitis. When you have a newborn, you never think it will happen to you, it was scary.
“Luckily, she started to get better within two or three days but that is only because of how quickly she was given antibiotics.”
Mia continues to have checks but is in good health after receiving prompt treatment.
Meanwhile, researchers are currently evaluating whether routine screening for GBS during pregnancy could prevent early onset neonatal GBS infection.
A total of 71 hospitals are taking part in the trial, named GBS3. Half of those involved are testing pregnant women for GBS, while the other half will continue with standard risk-based care.
One in 19 babies die after developing early-onset GBS infection and 1 in 14 will have a long-term disability, according to figures from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. However, most infants make a full recovery with prompt intervention.
Ms Droy said it was encouraging to see the NHS assessing whether routine testing would help to improve detection and treatment of GBS, given that it is already mandatory in the US, Canada, Germany, France and Spain.
“I was very fortunate to have known about the test beforehand and been able to purchase it. Even if testing can help eliminate a few cases, it would be brilliant to take away that anxiety.”
Newham Hospital, run by Barts Health NHS Trust, is among the hospitals in the capital participating in the trial. Pregnant women who have their baby at the hospital in the next six months will be offered a test by their midwife.
Jane Plumb, Chief Executive at Group B Strep Support, said: “It’s so important that pregnant women and people ask their midwife about GBS testing. This simple procedure takes only minutes but is vital to protect newborn babies.
"By improving testing rates within the UK, we can protect babies from life-threatening GBS infection and from the potentially devastating consequences.”
Ferha Saeed, a consultant Obstetrician and lead investigator for the trial at Newham Hospital, said the trial results would “provide valuable guidance for how we might roll out routine GBS testing for all pregnant women in Newham and across the UK.”
Researchers are expected to report their findings in 2025.
Anyone seeking information about GBS and the trial can do so via Group B Strep Support.