When a young boy caught Group B Streptococcus from his mother during labor, it quickly turned into infant meningitis—a type of neonatal infection. This child’s situation could have been prevented with a simple screening test before delivery to see if his mother was a carrier.
When the boy, named Grayson, was born in December 2015 in the U.K., his mother was elated. However, before the exhaustion of childbirth had passed, her son was admitted to the special care baby unit because he was crying inconsolably and grunting. He was diagnosed with infant meningitis, which is a symptom of early-onset Group B Strep—a bacterial infection.
Grayson spent his first two weeks in the hospital fighting the infection. On New Year’s Eve, he finally went home, but his symptoms came back, and he was readmitted. This time the tests showed that the meningitis had injured his brain.
Now his mother is calling for routine screening for Group B Streptococcus around the world to prevent other children and families from going through the same heartbreak.
Baby Suffered Brain Damage From Contracting Infection at Birth
Between 25% and 40% of healthy adult women test positive for Group B Strep bacteria near their vagina. It comes and goes, and the individual likely won’t display any symptoms of having a bacterial infection.
While it generally isn’t a problem for a woman to have Group B Strep, if she has it while giving birth, she can pass the infection onto her child.
The U.K.’s National Health Services doesn’t require routine testing for Group B Strep because they say it rarely transfers to the infant. However, if it does transfer, as it did in Grayson’s case, it can cause infant meningitis and brain damage.
However, testing for Group B Strep is routine for expecting mothers in the U.S. The test usually happens between weeks 35 and 37. If the mother goes into labor before she has been tested, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends she is treated for Group B Strep just in case.
Group B Strep Affects Many Babies
Group B Strep is very common. It affects 1 in 2,000 American babies. Fortunately, most babies born to women who have Group B Strep do not get sick. However, if the child does contact the bacteria, the results can be devastating.
There are two types of Group B Strep diseases: early-onset and late-onset. The symptoms for early-onset Group B Strep usually appear on the day of their birth or throughout the first week. Late-onset Group B Strep appears within the first few months.
The symptoms of early-onset Group B Strep include:
- Breathing problems, such as breathing quickly or not breathing at all for a period of time
- Grunting noises
- Sleepiness or being difficult to wake
- Difficulty feeding
The symptoms of late-onset Group B Strep are:
- Pain when they move their arms or leg
- Moving their limbs less
- Breathing problems
Routine Screening Should Include Group B Strep Testing
In the U.S., women are routinely screened for Group B Strep when they are pregnant. The test involves using a cotton swab to take samples from around the vagina and rectum. The samples are then sent to a lab to be checked for Group B Strep. It can take between one and three days for the results to come back.
If the test comes back positive, then the doctors will take a few extra precautions while she is in labor. They will give her an intravenous (IV) antibiotic four hours before she delivers her child to kill the bacteria.
After the child is born, doctors will monitor the baby to see if they have any signs of infection. If they do, then their blood or spinal fluid will be checked to determine if they have Group B Strep. If they are positive, they will receive antibiotics and potentially other treatments like breathing help and IV fluids.
It’s important for all expecting mothers to be aware of the risks of Group B Strep infection and to ensure that their doctor has screened them for it prior to giving birth.
Protecting Your Baby From Group B Strep
Doctors should routinely test pregnant women for Group B Strep because failure to do so can result in severe brain damage to the baby. If the baby is hurt because the doctor did not check, it could be considered medical negligence.
Contact the Birth Injury Justice Center if your baby has suffered brain damage from meningitis. Legal compensation and support may be available to you.