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Pregnancy Complications

Group B Strep Infection (GBS Disease)

Late-onset Group B Strep Disease
Some basic facts about late-onset group B strep disease

What is late-onset group B strep disease?

Late-onset group B strep disease is disease that occurs in infants one week to several months after birth. Such babies may appear healthy at birth and only first develop symptoms of group B strep disease after the first week of life.

How common is late-onset group B strep disease?

Approximately 3 babies out of every 10,000 births develop late-onset group B strep disease. Late-onset disease used to be less common than group B strep disease in the first week of life. Now that prevention efforts have reduced cases of early newborn disease, about half of all infant group B strep infection fall in the late-onset category.

How do babies get late-onset group B strep disease?

Early studies suggest that only about half of late-onset group B strep disease among newborns comes from a mother who is a group B strep carrier. The source of infection for others with late-onset group B strep disease can be hard to figure out. CDC is involved in some research studies to try to better understand the causes of late-onset disease.

At what age do most babies develop late-onset group B strep infections?

About 80% of all late-onset group B strep infections occur in the first 2 months of life. Most occur in the first month of life.

What serious problems in babies are caused by late-onset group B strep?

Late-onset group B strep disease most commonly causes bloodstream infections, pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining surrounding the brain). Meningitis is more common among babies with late-onset disease than those who get sick during the first week of life.

What babies are more at risk for late-onset group B strep disease?

Late-onset group B strep disease is more common among babies who are born prematurely (< 37 weeks). The rates of late-onset disease are also higher among male infants, and among African American babies.

Is there a way to prevent late-onset group B strep disease?

Unfortunately, the method we recommend to prevent group B strep disease in the first week of life (giving women who are carriers of the bacteria antibiotics through the vein (IV) during labor) does not prevent late-onset disease. Although rates of disease in the first week of life have declined, rates of late-onset disease have remained fairly stable in the 1990s. Researchers are currently working on developing a group B strep vaccine which may one day be available to the public as a way to prevent late-onset group B strep disease.

Reprinted from the CDC's Group B Strep Disease information bureau. Visit the CDC for more information.

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