In Recognition of Strep B Awareness Month, the European Institute of Women’s Health calls on key stakeholders and citizens of Europe to eliminate preventable Group B Strep transmission to infants
19 July 2017—July is International Group B Strep Awareness Month.
This year’s theme,
“What if we had known…?”
promotes awareness raising of Group B Strep transmission from mother to infant. The EIWH calls on Europe to make this important issue a top priority and to #starttheGBSconversation.
Group B Strep, or Strep B, is a bacterial infection. streptococcus is Group B streptococcus is found in about one third of adults and about one-quarter of pregnant women.i The infection is not harmful to adults and typically does not present with symptoms in this population. However, mothers can pass to newborns during delivery. Group B Strep can be life-threatening disease infection in infants. Newborns that contract the infection during labour are susceptible to harmful diseases including meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia, which can result in long-term health issues and even death.
Many pregnant women are unaware if they are Strep B positive, and about half of pregnant women do not know about Group B Strep B. Consequently, it is vital that to raise awareness and routinise screenings for pregnant women to prevent avoidable infant mortality. Following a lab test at 35-37 weeks, a pregnant women with Strep B can be treated during delivery to prevent infant transmission through the administration of an antibiotic at the onset of labour. The treatment reduces the risk of the infant developing an infection by about 80%. i, ii
In the EU, many Member States offer maternal screenings to prevent the transmission of the infection. For instance, Spain has drastically reduced the infection rate of infants by administering antibiotics to mothers with Group B Strep B over the last decade.i Unfortunately, testing for Strep B is not provided to all women across Europe.ii Moreover, due to a lack of screening standardisation and treatment disparities, newborns from low-income countries are more likely to die from Strep B infections than those from high-income countries. The EIWH applauds the countries that screen all pregnant women for Group B Strep B and urgently calls on all EU Member States to raise awareness, prevent transmission, and reduce health inequities.
From 2008 to 2011, a DG Research-funded European project, DEVANI (Design a vaccine to immunise neonates against GBS infection), collected over 1000 strains of Group B Strep to aid the creation of a vaccine to prevent Group B Strep B transmission. This study was the first extensive European-wide study of Group B Strep B, and its research efforts have effectively identified potential antigens for vaccine candidates. The Institute welcomes efforts like the DEVANI project to better understand and to tackle Group B Strep.
The EIWH encourages the European government and Member States to continue to improve Group B Strep B research. The Institute calls on key stakeholders and citizens of the EU to #starttheGBSconversation and to work to reduce transmission of Strep BStrep B to newborns. Concerted efforts must be continuously undertaken to work to tackle maternal and infant health issues across Europe.
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- European Institute of Women’s Health’s website
- World Health Organization Recommendations for Prevention and Treatment of Maternal Peripartum Infections
- Group Strep B International’s website
About the EIWH
Founded in 1996, the European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that uses an evidence-based to advocate for an equitable, sex- and gender-sensitive approach in health policy, research, promotion, treatment and care. The Institute promotes biomedical and socio-economic research that addresses sex and gender-based differences to ensure access to quality treatment and care for women across their lifespan. The EIWH strives to reduce inequities by drawing policymaker’s attention to the obstacles that women in minority, migrant, refugee and socio-economic disadvantaged groups face. The Institute’s activities work to empower individuals to play an active part in their own health management.
- to be added
- “How to help protect your baby.” Group Strep B Internationall (accessed July 2017)
- I bid
- Preventing GBS infection in newborn babies.” Group Strep B Support”
- Lopez, Marino Cueta. “Prevención de la infección perinatal por estreptococo del grupo B. Recomendaciones españolas revisadas 2012.” Documento de concenso.
- J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2015 May;28(7):766-82. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2014.934804. Epub 2014 Aug 27.