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- In the United States, group B strep bacteria are the leading cause of meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain) and sepsis (the body's life-threatening response to infection) in a newborn’s first week of life (early-onset disease).
- About 1 out of every 4 pregnant women carry group B strep bacteria in the rectum or vagina. Group B strep bacteria may come and go in people’s bodies without symptoms.
- Pregnant woman should be tested for group B strep bacteria when they are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant.
- A pregnant woman who tests positive for group B strep bacteria and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop group B strep disease, compared to a 1 in 200 chance if she does not.
- Any pregnant woman who had a baby with group B strep disease in the past, or who has had group B strep in their urine during this pregnancy caused by group B strep should get antibiotics during labor.
- Most early-onset group B strep disease in newborns can be prevented by giving pregnant women antibiotics (medicine that kills bacteria in the body) through the vein (IV) during labor.
- Newborns are at increased risk for a group B strep disease if their mother tests positive for group B strep bacteria during pregnancy.
- The antibiotics used to prevent early-onset group B strep disease in newborns only help during labor — they can’t be taken before labor, because the bacteria can grow back quickly.
- The rate of serious group B strep disease increases with age; average age of cases in non-pregnant adults is about 60 years old.
- Page last reviewed: May 23, 2016
- Page last updated: June 15, 2016
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