Group B strep infection is a serious bacterial infection that affects infants, elderly and pregnant women. It can turn into a life-threatening infection when it infects newborn babies. The following health care article will cover information related to the causes, symptoms and treatment options that will help you know more about this dangerous infection.
Group B strep is the bacteria that is the common inhabitant of the human gut. It is also known as Beta strep, or GBS, as well as Streptococcus agalactiae. It is usually harmless and will cause serious illnesses in people with a compromised immune system like newborn infants, elderly people as well as adults. Streptococcus agalactiae is a serious veterinary pathogen that causes mastitis in dairy cows. It is a gram positive bacteria that carries group B Lancefield antigen. A group B strep infection can turn life-threatening for newborns.
Group B Strep Infection in Adults
Group B strep infection usually causes no symptoms in adults. However, in adults it occurs when it gains entry into the blood stream. People are generally ‘colonized’ by this S. agalactiae. This means many adults are infected with this bacteria without ever developing an infection. These bacteria often colonize the gastrointestinal tract, genital tract as well as the urinary tract of adults. If these bacteria get a chance to invade the blood stream, it can lead to devastating consequences.
Causes include people with weak immune system, or someone suffering from a chronic illness generally develops a GBS infection. This bacteria commonly causes infection in pregnant women. There are about 10% to 30% of healthy women who carry this bacteria in their intestines, vagina and rectal area. Symptoms of group B strep infection include a urinary tract infection. Other serious signs of Beta Strep infection include blood infections and pneumonia. This infection is found to be fatal in 20% adults, that includes men as well as non-pregnant women.
Group B Strep Infection in Newborns
Group B strep bacteria causes serious health issues in newborns. The causes in newborns is due to passage of the bacteria from an infected mother in the womb, or during childbirth. Although, pregnant women are carriers of this infectious bacteria, about 2% newborns tend to develop a serious infection. The symptoms in newborns are of two types: early onset or late-onset. The early onset symptoms are very common, and lead to serious consequences. The baby is sick and shows signs of infection, within 12 hours after birth.
The symptoms include fever, difficulty in feeding and lethargy. The late onset symptoms develop after a few weeks or months after birth. The symptoms include fever, coughing, cold congestion, lethargy, seizures and feeding difficulty. This infection leads to complications such as sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia in newborns. It is said to be fatal in about 5% to 15% of infected newborns. Babies that survive an infection may suffer from speech problems, hearing difficulties, vision problems as well as mental retardation and learning disabilities.
There are certain risk factors that lead to a GBS infection in newborns as well as adults. Infants are at risk if the pregnant mother is a carrier of this bacteria. Also, baby’s born prematurely,or the mother has had a placental tissue or amniotic fluid infection. A mother’s body temperature that was more than the normal body temperature during childbirth also increases the risk of GBS infection in newborns.
Carrying twins or multiple pregnancy is also a contributing factor for an infection in newborns. In case of adults, people with diabetes, liver diseases, cancer or HIV/AIDS are more prone to these infections. Elderly people who are over the age of 65 years, commonly exhibit symptoms of group B strep infection.
This is a life-threatening infection that can cause many complications in adults as well as newborns. These complications that turn life-threatening include:
- Urinary tract infection
- Placental infection or chorioamnionitis in pregnant women
- Endometritis in women
- Bone and joint infection
Treatment for Streptococcus agalactiae infection in adults includes use of antibiotics. These antibiotics are usually penicillin or cephalexin. They are even safe to be used during pregnancy. However, one should always follow a doctor’s advice regarding use of antibiotics, especially when pregnant. In case of newborns, an infected baby will be given intravenous antibiotics. If the health of the newborn is serious, he/she may be given oxygen therapy along with medications that are needed according the infant’s health.
Group B strep infection is not as serious as it is in newborns. In most adults, this bacterium is harmless. However, pregnant women who have tested positive for GBS infection, should speak to their doctor, and follow all the precautions required to prevent passing this organism to the baby.