Group B Strep Guidelines Linked to Decline in Disease

Study points to opportunities to prevent more cases of group B streptococcal disease in infants

WEDNESDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- Guidelines in 2002 recommending universal screening for group B streptococcus colonization in pregnant women were rapidly adopted, according to research published in the June 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Melissa K. Van Dyke, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from the 10-state Active Bacterial Core surveillance system on 254 births of infants with early-onset group B streptococcal disease and 7,437 births of infants free of disease in 2003 and 2004. The authors compared their results to a similar study on data from 1998 and 1999.

The researchers found that the rate of screening for group B streptococcus before delivery rose from 48.1 to 85 percent during this time. Infants born preterm had a higher incidence of disease than term infants (0.73 versus 0.26 cases per 1,000 live births). Among mothers delivering at term, missed screening accounted for 13.4 percent of cases. Also, the authors note, 61.4 percent of term infants with the disease were born to women who had tested negative for group B streptococcus before delivery.

"The broad implementation of universal screening after the 2002 guidelines were issued shows that public health policy can be translated into action. Recommendations were rapidly adopted and coincided with a decline in the incidence of early-onset disease. Universal screening and intrapartum chemoprophylaxis were not expected to prevent all cases of early-onset group B streptococcal disease, and our results also highlight the challenges and limitations of this approach to prevention," Van Dyke and colleagues conclude.

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