Group B strep; GBS; Neonatal sepsis
Group B streptococcal septicemia is a severe bacterial infection that affects newborn infants.
Septicemia is an infection in the bloodstream that may travel to different body organs. Group B streptococcal (GBS) septicemia is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae, which is commonly called group B strep or GBS. A newborn with septicemia is very sick.
GBS is commonly found in adults and older children, and usually does not cause infection. There are two ways in which it may be passed to a newborn baby:
GBS now occurs less often, because there are methods to screen and treat pregnant women at risk.
The following increase an infant's risk for group B streptococcal septicemia:
The baby may have any of the following signs and symptoms:
To diagnose GBS septicemia, GBS bacteria must be found in a sample of blood (blood culture) taken from a sick newborn.
Other tests that may be done include:
The baby is given antibiotics through a vein (IV).
Other treatment measures may involve:
A therapy called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be used in very severe cases.
This disease can be life threatening without prompt treatment.
Possible complications include:
This disease is usually diagnosed shortly after birth, often while the baby is still in the hospital.
However, if you have a newborn at home who shows symptoms of this condition, seek immediate emergency medical help or call the local emergency number (such as 911).
Parents should watch for symptoms in their baby's first 6 weeks. The early stages of this disease can produce symptoms that are hard to spot.
To help reduce the risk of GBS, pregnant women should get tested for the bacteria at 35 to 37 weeks into their pregnancy. If the bacteria are detected, women are given antibiotics through a vein during labor. If the mother goes into premature labor before 37 weeks and GBS test results are unavailable, she should be treated with antibiotics.
Newborns who are at high risk are tested for GBS infection. They may receive antibiotics through a vein during the first 30 to 48 hours of life until test results are available. They should not be sent home from the hospital before 48 hours of age.
In all cases, proper hand washing by nursery caretakers, visitors, and parents can help prevent the spread of the bacteria after the infant is born.
An early diagnosis can help decrease the risk of some complications.
Committee on Infectious Diseases; Committee on Fetus and Newborn, Baker CJ, Byington CL, Polin RA. Policy statement -Recommendations for the prevention of perinatal group B streptococcal (GBS) disease. Pediatrics. 2011;128:611-6. PMID 21807694
Lachenauer CS, Wessels MR. Group B streptococcus. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JF III, Schor NF, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 177.
Last reviewed on: 12/12/2014
Reviewed by: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.