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Group B Strep


What is a group B strep infection?

  • Group B strep infection is a condition caused by bacteria called group B streptococcus (GBS). GBS are normally found in the digestive organs or vagina. A person may carry GBS and not get infected and become sick. GBS live inside the body, along with many other bacteria that are harmless to most people. GBS rarely cause serious problems in adults, but can be life-threatening to babies.
  • GBS are not easily passed to other adults. Babies can get infected during, or shortly after birth. Your baby may also become sick if he had contact with a person infected with GBS. Among adults, GBS infection usually affects pregnant women and the elderly. GBS infection may cause preterm delivery, stillbirth, or infections of the womb or bladder in pregnant women. GBS usually also affects adults with other diseases, such as diabetes or cancer. GBS may cause infections in the blood, lungs, or skin.

What are the signs and symptoms of a GBS infection in babies?

GBS infection in babies may be grouped into early-onset and late-onset GBS infection. Early-onset GBS infection occurs within the first week of life, usually within 72 hours of birth. Late-onset GBS infection commonly appears after the first week of birth. Your baby may have any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Eating poorly or vomiting
  • Fast or slow heartbeat and trouble breathing
  • Fever, hypothermia (very low body temperature), or seizures
  • Irritability, drowsiness, or difficulty waking up
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Tense or bulging fontanel (soft spot on the top of his head)

How is a GBS infection diagnosed in babies?

  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give caregivers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your child's lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child's heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help caregivers diagnose your child's symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure may also be called a spinal tap. A small needle is placed into your child's lower back. Fluid will be removed from around your child's spinal cord and sent to the lab for tests. The test is done to check for bleeding around your child's brain and spinal cord, and for infection. This procedure may also be done to take pressure off your child's brain and spinal cord, or to give medicine. Your child may need to be held in place so that he does not move during the procedure.

How is a GBS infection treated in babies?

Your baby may need to stay in the hospital for treatment. Antibiotic medicines are usually needed to treat GBS infection in babies.

What increases my baby's risk of a GBS infection?

Your baby is more likely to be infected with GBS if you have any of the following:

  • Water that breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy
  • Fever during labor
  • Previous birth to a baby with GBS infection
  • Positive test result for GBS in current pregnancy
  • Preterm labor

How can I decrease my baby's risk for a GBS infection?

Screening tests for GBS in mothers may be done during the 35th to 37th weeks of pregnancy. A sample from your vagina or rectum may be taken to check if you carry GBS. You may be given antibiotics if you carry the bacteria. Antibiotics will be given during your labor and delivery through an IV to prevent you from passing GBS to your baby.

What are the risks of GBS infection?

Treatment with antibiotic medicines may cause fast or irregular breathing, fever, rash, or swelling around the face. Group B strep infection may cause sepsis, meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain), and pneumonia (lung infection). Your baby may also develop problems with his hearing, vision, speech, or learning later in life. If left untreated, GBS infection may cause life-threatening brain or organ damage, or a coma.

Where can I get more information?

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

When should I contact my baby's pediatrician?

  • Your baby is eating poorly.
  • Your baby's skin has swelling or a rash.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • Your baby has a seizure.
  • Your baby has a tense or bulging soft spot on the top of the head.
  • Your baby has trouble breathing and a very fast or slow heartbeat.
  • Your baby is drowsy or more sleepy than usual.
  • Your baby is vomiting often.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.