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Dublin: 1°C Sunday 24 January 2021

More antibiotics would stop rise in dangerous Strep B infections in babies - scientists

New research has recorded a rise of 60% in cases of the infection over the past 25 years in the Netherlands.

Image: newborn via Shutterstock

RESEARCHERS IN THE Netherlands have recorded a striking rise in the number of Group B streptococcus in infants, prompting calls for an overhaul in how the infection is prevented.

While Strep B will cause little harm to health adults, it can lead to sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia among newborns.

In most European countries, including Ireland, doctors identify pregnant women whose newborns will be at risk of developing Strep B, and prescribe antibiotics.

“Healthcare professionals take a preventative approach to treating a strep B infection by trying to identify babies at a high risk of developing an infection and treating them with antibiotics before they are born,” a note on the HSE website reads.

However, according to lead author Dr Arie van der Ende from the Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis in Amsterdam, her new study should prompt a “reassessment of current practices”.

“Only offering antibiotic treatment during labour to pregnant women at risk is probably too limited to prevent all group B streptococcal infections in newborn infants,” he said, suggesting that more universal screening should be offered.

The study, published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, found a 60% rise in Strep B infections in infants younger than three months in the Netherlands over the past 25 years.

This is despite healthcare professionals introducing a raft of new preventative strategies.

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This rise in the early-onset of the disease – 0.11 to 0.19 cases per 1000 live births between 1987 and 2011 – could be due to the emergence of more virulent types of the infections.

The rate of late-onset disease increased from 0.03 to 0.13.

Read: 5.5 million babies are born and die each year without being recorded >

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Nicky Ryan

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