Medical Negligence

Research reveals long-term impact of Group B Strep infection

Research finds that Group B Strep infection can cause long-term human and social costs even greater than had been previously understood.

31 July 2023

The research

A major piece of research sheds light on the longer-term impacts of Group B Strep infection in the first days and months of a baby’s life. This study was conducted by a partnership of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Aarhus University (Denmark), Amsterdam UMC (Netherlands) and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. It tracked nearly 25,000 children, born in Denmark and the Netherlands between 1997 and 2017. The results are published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Invasive Group B Strep infection (iGBS) is increasingly understood to be one of the most significant causes of illness in newborns, with an estimated 300,000 annual cases worldwide. The mortality rate for babies affected is around 5% in high-income settings, with even higher rates in low and middle income countries.

What this research has also helped us to understand, however, is the impact on the survivors. The study found that later in life, 1 in 20 children who experienced iGBS have some form of neurodevelopmental disability. They are roughly twice as likely as other children to have neurodevelopmental impairments and to require special educational support. This means that the long-term human and social costs of Group B Strep are even greater than had been previously understood.

Where we are instructed to help families who suspect or discover that poor medical care has resulted in iGBS in their child, we ensure that the legal claim fully investigates any neurodevelopmental disability that may develop and then work with professionals to guarantee appropriate long term therapeutic support and care for the child.

Dr. Erzsébet Horváth-Puhó, an associate professor at Aarhus University and a lead author of the study, said: “Our study suggests that babies who recover from invasive GBS disease have increased risks of cognitive, motor, and behavioural impairments, which can impact their lives and their families. The long term effects on children was also evidenced by higher rates of hospitalisation for those who survived this infection. In Denmark, a nearly two-fold increase in outpatient visits was observed and a 1.3 higher increase for hospital admissions compared to children who did not develop GBS disease.”

What Can be Done?

The only treatment available to prevent iGBS is antibiotic prophylaxis – drugs given to women in labour, to prevent their babies becoming infected. One key tactic, therefore, is to improve our understanding of risk factors to help us identify who is at risk, and should be given this treatment. This could also be supplemented with more common testing of expectant mothers, to determine who may be passively carrying the disease – which normally has no symptoms in adults.

With further research, there are hopes for the development of a maternal vaccine – a drug which could be given to women that would prevent future infection of their babies. Professor Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, another author on the Lancet study, noted that “Despite 30 years of research, maternal GBS vaccines currently are not yet available - a contrast to more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines in process within one year. We can and must deliver more for families affected by GBS all over the world.”

In the UK, GBSS (Group B Strep Support) are doing invaluable work to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of Group B Strep, as well as advocating for more research like this and better care from healthcare providers. Widespread screening, and ensuring medical staff are aware of the warning signs they should consider for patients with a history of Group B Strep, are vital to ensure safety of newborn babies.

If you or your baby has been affected by GBS infection and you believe that the care/treatment that you received from your medical professionals may have been substandard, please contact Laura Preston at or call us on 0330 041 5869. Laura is a medical negligence expert with a special interest in GBS cases and sits on the GBSS legal expert panel.

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