A clinical trial for group B Strep screening in pregnant women will go ahead in the UK.
A £2.8 million National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded study will measure the effectiveness of two tests to identify group B Strep bacteria in late pregnancy or labour, compared with the current approach of identifying pregnant women with risk factors of their new born contracting the infection.
The trial is being led by Professor Jane Daniels and Dr Kate Walker at the University of Nottingham.
The group B Strep screening trial will take place in 80 hospitals across England, Wales and Scotland, with the aim of using the results to inform future pregnancy care policy in the UK.
Two tests will be used in the trial – a lab-based test at 35 to 37 weeks gestation and a ‘bedside test’ at the beginning of labour.
Commenting on the trial, Health Minister Nicola Blackwood, said: “We want the NHS to be the safest place in the world to have a baby and we will halve the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths over the next five years through the Long Term Plan.
“I am delighted the NIHR is funding this large-scale clinical trial to allow us to better understand how we can prevent the leading cause of serious infection in new born babies.”
Group B Strep is the most common cause of life threatening infection in babies, causing pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.
In the UK, there are no routine tests carried out to test pregnant women for group B Strep but a risk-based prevention strategy is used.
There has been some debate as to which strategy would benefit the UK and this clinical trial is hoping to resolve it.
Group B Strep bacteria affects one in five pregnant women, which usually causes no harm to the carrier.
However, the bacteria could be passed on from mother to baby in childbirth.
1,750 new born babies will develop group B Strep infection, with one in 19 babies dying and one in 14 babies left with lifelong disabilities.
Since 2000 there has been a 31% rise in group B Strep infections in babies under the age of three months.
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