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Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Infant girlThe symptoms of group B strep disease can seem like other health problems in newborns and infants. Most newborns with early-onset disease have symptoms on the day of birth. Babies who develop late-onset disease may appear healthy at birth and develop symptoms of group B strep disease after the first week of life.

Some symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Irritability, or lethargy (limpness or hard to wake up the baby)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue-ish color to skin

Diagnosis of Group B Strep Disease in Newborns

Pregnant womanGroup B strep disease is diagnosed when the bacteria are grown from samples of a baby’s sterile body fluids, such as blood or spinal fluid. Cultures can take a few days to grow.

Typically, if a mother who tested positive for group B strep received antibiotics during labor, the baby will be observed to see if he or she should get extra testing or treatment because of concerns about early-onset disease. (See the secondary prevention of early-onset GBS among infants section of the CDC’s prevention guidelines to learn more.)

For both early-onset and late-onset disease, if the doctors suspect that a baby has group B strep infection, they will take a sample of the baby’s blood and spinal fluid to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Newborns with Group B Strep Disease

Fluid injectionGroup B strep infections in newborns and older babies are treated with antibiotics (e.g., penicillin or ampicillin) given through a vein (IV). For babies with severe illness, other procedures in addition to antibiotics may be needed.