Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications

Diagnosis

If doctors suspect someone has GBS disease, they will take samples of sterile body fluids. Examples of sterile body fluids are blood and spinal fluid. Doctors look to see if GBS bacteria grow from the samples (culture). It can take a few days to get these results since the bacteria need time to grow. Doctors may also order a chest x-ray to help determine if someone has GBS disease.

Sometimes GBS bacteria can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs or bladder infections). Doctors use a sample of urine to diagnose urinary tract infections.

Treatment

Doctors usually treat GBS disease with a type of antibiotic called beta-lactams, which includes penicillin and ampicillin. Sometimes people with soft tissue and bone infections may need additional treatment, such as surgery. Treatment will depend on the kind of infection caused by GBS bacteria. Patients should ask their or their child’s doctor about specific treatment options.

Complications

Babies may have long-term problems, such as deafness and developmental disabilities, due to having GBS disease. Babies who had meningitis are especially at risk for having long-term problems. Care for sick babies has improved a lot in the United States. However, 2 to 3 in every 50 babies (4% to 6%) who develop GBS disease will die.

GBS bacteria may also cause some miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm deliveries. However, many different factors can lead to stillbirth, pre-term delivery, or miscarriage. Most of the time, the cause for these events is not known.

Serious GBS infections, such as bacteremia, sepsis, and pneumonia, can also be deadly for adults. On average, about 1 in 20 non-pregnant adults with serious GBS infections die. Risk of death is lower among younger adults and adults who do not have other medical conditions.