New research study to test for Group B Streptococcus in pregnancy

Pregnant women and people receiving maternity care from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will be routinely offered a test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS), as part of a new research study funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Technology Assessment Programme and sponsored by the University of Nottingham.

The study aims to evaluate whether testing pregnant women for GBS reduces infection risk in newborn babies, and to evaluate whether carrying out these tests is a more effective strategy than the UK’s current risk factor based strategy.

Approximately one in four pregnant women in the UK carries GBS, a common bacteria that normally causes no harm. If the mother carries GBS, the baby may be exposed to it during labour and birth and become colonised with bacteria. Although most exposed babies remain well, there is a small chance that a baby can become seriously ill or even die. Women with GBS are offered intravenous antibiotics throughout their labour and during birth to reduce this risk, with midwives currently identifying pregnant women who may be at risk of their baby developing GBS infection by using a checklist of risk factors.

The new trial will see women offered the rapid test using a swab sample when they are admitted to have their baby. Researchers hope that routine testing will greatly improve the accuracy of identifying those with GBS and therefore decrease risk to babies, as well as reducing unnecessary antibiotic administration.

University of Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit is managing the trial and has allocated Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to begin offering the rapid test in labour, supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Yorkshire and Humber.

Mr Jonathan Nelson, Consultant in Obstetrics at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are really pleased to be the first hospital in the region to offer testing for this trial, and look forward to learning whether it is as beneficial to our women as we hope it will be.”