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Definition Return to top
Group B streptococcal septicemia is a severe bacterial infection that affects newborn infants.
See also: Neonatal sepsis
Causes Return to top
Group B streptococcal septicemia is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus agalactiae. This bacteria is commonly found in the human gastrointestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts.
If the bacteria travels from the mother's bloodstream through the placenta the infant can become infected. The infant may also become infected if the mother's water breaks (membranes rupture) as the infant passes through the birth canal.
The infant may also become infected after delivery.
The disease may be seen from birth to 6 days of life (generally in the first 24 hours) or in children age 7 days to 3 months. Most cases occur in babies around 1 month old.
Group B streptococcus was once responsible for about 75% of sepsis infections in infants. However, the rate of this condition has dropped since methods to screen and treat pregnant women at risk have been established.
The following increase an infant's risk for group B streptococcal septicemia:
Symptoms Return to top
Parents should watch for any of the following symptoms when their child is less than 3 months old, particularly in the first 6 weeks. The early stages of the disease can produce subtle symptoms.
Symptoms in the infant may include:
Exams and Tests Return to topTests that may be done to diagnose this condition in a newborn include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment may involve one or more of the following:
A complex therapy called extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be used in very severe cases.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
This disease can be deadly without early treatment.
Possible Complications Return to top
Possible complications include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
This disease is usually diagnosed shortly after birth, often while the baby is still in the hospital. However, if you have a newborn at home who shows signs of this condition, seek immediate emergency medical help or call the local emergency number (such as 911).
Prevention Return to top
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established two methods to help reduce the risk of Group B streptococcal septicemia.
Both sets of procedures are currently accepted as the standard of care. In all cases, proper hand washing by nursery caretakers, visitors, and parents helps prevent the spread of the bacteria after the infant is born.
An early diagnosis can help decrease the risk of some complications.
References Return to top
Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2005.
Schrag S, Gorwitz R, Fultz-Butts K, Schuchat A. Prevention of perinatal group B streptococcal disease. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 51(RR-11): 1–22, 2002.
Schrag S. Prevention of neonatal sepsis. Clin Perinatol. Sept 2005; 32(3): 601-15.Update Date: 10/8/2007 Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, MD, MPH, Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.