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Strep B screening urged to prevent baby deaths

The 'Strep B' infection rate among new-born babies is higher in Scotland than across the UK as a whole. Picture: TSPL

The 'Strep B' infection rate among new-born babies is higher in Scotland than across the UK as a whole. Picture: TSPL

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

A WOMAN whose newborn grand-daughter died from “Strep B” infection has told MSPs that expectant mothers across Scotland should be offered screening to prevent future tragedies.

Jackie Watt appeared before Holyrood’s petitions committee this morning just over a year since her 20-day-old granddaughter Lola died after contracting the condition.

It is passed on from mothers to babies during labour.

MSPs are now calling on the Scottish Government to set out whether it will introduce routine “Strep B” testing for all pregnant women in Scotland who request it.

The condition, also known as GBS (group B streptococcus), affects about one in four women and the infection rate among new-born babies is higher in Scotland than across the UK as a whole.

Ms Watt, from Kilwinning, gave evidence along with Jane Plumb, chief executive, Group B Strep Support at Holyrood this morning.

Ms Watt said that her daughter Nicole was told by doctors at the time that it is “just your luck” if the infection is passed on from mother to baby.

“None of us knew what Strep B was,” Ms Watt said today. “Some babies get it and other don’t, but if women were tested between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy with a reliable test then the results are good predicting whether the mum is carrying Strep B.”

If the infection is identified mums can be given antibiotics during labour which “dramatically reduces” the chances of the baby contracting Strep B.

At the moment women are given a swab tests, but this only catches about half of cases and this is not seen as reliable as a full screening process.

Ms Watt added: “Information about group B Step should be given to all pregnant women as a routine part of their antenatal care.”

Most pregnant women who carry the “Strep B” bacteria have healthy babies, but a small number pass it on. In Scotland, the rate is 0.47 cases per 1,000 births, compared with 0.36 in the UK.

It’s estimated that about 1 in 2,000 babies born in the UK and Ireland develops early-onset GBS infection. This means that every year in the UK about 340 babies will develop early-onset GBS infection.

 

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