Provide tests for Group B Strep to prevent any more avoidable deaths of newborn babies
My partner Scott and I should have been sharing our son Edward Gili’s first birthday last month. But instead of having that exciting first year to celebrate and many more to look forward to, we had just 9 precious days to spend with our beautiful son. Edward was cruelly taken from us as a result of contracting group B Strep infection at birth. On average, one newborn baby a day in the UK develops group B Strep infection. One baby a week dies from group B Strep infection. One baby a fortnight who survives the infection is left with long-term disabilities - physical, mental or both. It is the UK’s most common cause of severe bacterial infection in newborn babies, and of meningitis in babies under 3 months. Group B Strep is a normal bacterium carried by around 1/4 women, without symptoms and usually unknowingly. It can be passed from mother to baby around birth with potentially devastating consequences for the baby. But these consequences are usually preventable and that’s why I’ve started this petition with the charity Group B Strep Support. Unlike many other developed countries including Germany and Spain, the UK does not routinely offer tests to pregnant women specifically to check for Group B Strep carriage during late pregnancy. If doctors know a mum is carrying GBS, they can administer simple antibiotics during labour to prevent the infection - over 80% of these infections could be prevented. However the GBS-specific ECM (enriched culture medium) test is rarely available through the NHS. Since 2003, the UK has used ‘risk factors’ to guess which pregnant women might be at risk. Risk factors are poor at predicting which babies will develop the infection -- the number of babies infected is growing, we need to stop guessing and start testing. The ECM test costs the NHS £11 each and the antibiotics used in labour (usually penicillin) cost the NHS pennies. Had we had ECM tests in place, Edward Gili could be here today for us to see his first steps and hear his first words. We can’t afford to lose any more lives, we can’t afford not to do this.