Newcastle Hospitals is one of 80 sites across the country involved in a clinical trial to detect a common but potentially harmful bacteria during pregnancy.
The trial, called GBS3, hopes to determine the best way to detect group B strep and reduce the risk of infection in newborn babies.
One in four pregnant women carries group B strep but is unlikely to know they carry it. While group B strep is usually harmless, there is a small chance of babies becoming infected during labour which can make them seriously ill.
Now, patients who plan to have their baby at the Royal Victoria Infirmary’s (RVI) maternity unit will be offered the opportunity to take part in the trial, which involves taking a swab at 35-37 weeks into the pregnancy. If the swab is positive for group strep B, antibiotics will be offered once labour starts.
Quick and simple swab
Aly Kimber is lead research midwife for the trial and part of Newcastle Hospitals’ neonatal and reproductive health research team. She says:
“Group strep B is usually harmless in pregnancy, but unfortunately there is a small number of babies who can contract the infection during labour and become very poorly.
“As part of the trial, patients will be given a swab by one of our team at the RVI, or, alternatively, they can do the swab themselves at home and return it to the RVI. The procedure doesn’t hurt or take long to do.
“We’d encourage as many patients as possible to take part in this clinical trial which will help determine if universal screening of group B strep can save the lives of more babies.”
The UK does not currently routinely test for group B strep during pregnancy, but instead identifies those at higher risk of their baby developing an infection. Antibiotics are offered to these patients which significantly reduce the chance of infection in the newborn baby.
A rise in infections
Research has shown that there has been a 31% rise in the prevalence of group B strep infections in babies under three months old since 2000. 65% of the mothers of affected babies showed no risk factors.
It is hoped that the trial will provide data that can be used to inform future policy on universal testing for group B strep in pregnancy.
How to take part
To arrange a swab, patients should contact the research midwives on 0191 282 0362, or email email@example.com.
For more information, visit the GBS3 website.
The study is funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research Health Technology Assessment Programme and sponsored by the University of Nottingham. It is led by the Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit.