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Key messages

  • Maternal streptococcus agalactiae, or Group B streptococcus (GBS) colonisation, can lead to early onset sepsis (EOS) infection in the baby and associated morbidity.
  • Identifying women who are at risk of having a baby with GBS enables treatment to be given during labour to reduce the risk of transmission of infection to the baby.
  • There is limited high quality scientific evidence and a lack of expert consensus on whether a risk based or a universal screening approach should be used.
  • Intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) to women at risk of transmitting GBS to their baby, is associated with a reduction in (but does not eliminate) EOS. However it does not prevent late onset sepsis (LOS).
  • Treat all unwell babies for suspected sepsis, irrespective of maternal GBS status or adequate IAP.

In June 2023, we commenced a project to review and update the Maternity and Neonatal eHandbook guidelines with a view to completion in 2024. Please be aware that pending this review, some of the current guidelines may be out of date. In the meantime, we recommend that you also refer to more contemporaneous evidence.

GBS is a transient bacterium that is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract, vagina and urethra in 15-25% of pregnant women (asymptomatic carriers of GBS).

GBS is transmitted to the baby during birth in approximately 1–2 per 1000 live births and can lead to serious infection in the baby.

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Clinical Guidance Team
Safer Care Victoria

Version history

First published: June 2019
Review by: TBA

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