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10 months ago
OMG! India has the highest number of expecting mums with deadly Strep bacteria

A recent report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, has revealed some shocking details about pregnant women in India.

As per their latest survey, they found that almost 24 lakh (24,66,500) expecting mothers in India suffer from Group B Streptococcus (GBS) or commonly called Strep bacteria.

Incidentally, most of these expecting mums are either unidentified or medically untreated.

The survey also made some more revelations as reported by Deccan Chronicle.

  • Globally, one in five pregnant women carry the GBS bacteria which is a major cause of maternal and infant ill health.
  • Around 21.7 million pregnant women carry the Group B Strep bacteria
  • These numbers reportedly include: India (2,466,500), China (1,934,900), Nigeria (1,060,000), the US (942,800) and Indonesia (799,100)
  • This bacterium reportedly causes "nearly 150,000 stillbirths and infant deaths globally"
  • Researchers also shared with the daily, "Antibiotics currently prevent an estimated 29,000 cases of early-onset Group B Streptococcal disease per year."

Even with such unfortunately high numbers, scientists have not been able to develop a maternal GBS vaccine.

Now comes the real question- what exactly is strep bacteria and how does it affect an expecting mum? Apart from these two, here are a few more important questions that you should know about this deadly bacteria as well.

What is GB Strep bacteria?

A person who has Group B Strep bacterium will not necessarily exhibit any symptoms, but may suffer from other medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and even cardiovascular diseases.

This type of bacteria is usually found in vagina, rectal or intestine area. Although it must be noted that it often affects women, and may pass on an unborn child during the very first week. If it so happens, it is detected as early onset.

How is it passed on to feotuses and newborns?

If the infection spreads during between the first week and three months, it is referred to as a late onset of Strep bacterium. But that's not it, sometimes a newborn may contract the bacteria during delivery.

Although one must also note that not all babies are born with this bacteria. Studies show that only one of the 100 children born to a Strep bacteria positive mum contract the bacteria themselves.

There are also some maternal risks that lead to the baby contracting the bacteria. These are listed by medicinenet as below:

  • Labour or membrane rupture before 37 weeks gestation
  • Membrane rupture more than 18 hours before delivery
  • Urinary tract infection with GBS during pregnancy
  • Previous baby with GBS infection
  • Fever during labour
  • Positive culture for GBS colonisation at 35-37 weeks

This bacteria may also lead to complications in the expecting mum such as a miscarriage, feotal death, preterm delivery and of course, urinary tract infection.

What tests do expecting mums go through to identify the bacterium?

Now, in order to identify the existence of GBS bacterium, expecting mothers and even adults are subjected to a few tests including a blood test, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) test as well as a urine test.

For expecting mums, experts also take vaginal and rectal swabs to check for the existence of the bacteria. And if meningitis is suspected, a lumbar puncture (spinal puncture) is performed. Similarly, a chest x-ray is performed if pneumonia is suspected.

What is the treatment for an expecting mum?

There are a few steps of treatment based on the extent of pregnancy.

  • For women who have just stepped into their pregnancy and are found to be positive, intravenous antibiotics are usually recommended, at the time of delivery. This is not done during pregnancy because GBS is found to grow back and so its elimination can only be done during labour.
  • Similarly for women who have premature labour, they are also administered antibiotics. Remember, without antibiotics almost one in a 100 and sometimes 200 child survives with GBS bacterium.

So is it possible to prevent this infection? The answer is, yes! With routine pregnancy scans and tests, doctors can identify GBS bacterium in an expecting mum and prevent it from spreading further and to their newborn.

Also read: 5 routine pregnancy scans you must know about

(All images courtesy: Pixabay)
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