Monday, 24 April 2017

"Testing Mothers for Deadly Infection Supported"

This morning, there is a large "Focus on Health" section in the Shropshire Star which includes two articles on GBS.  Sadly, in one of these we read the story of two babies who lost their lives to GBS infections, and in the other of a child who has been left disabled - this in addition to my own story with Adam.

As always, I am very grateful to the Shropshire Star for raising awareness of this deadly infection and focusing on these stories - we wish we didn't have to tell them but will continue doing so until GBS screening is introduced on the NHS!

Just a note:  one article included a small misprint saying, "The National Screening Committee regularly gives the reason not to introduce routine screening as it is worried about the risk of adverse reaction, as it can lead to infertility."  This is incorrect: the adverse reactions the Screening Committee have mentioned are risk of allergic reaction to the penicillin used to treat GBS positive mothers and the risk of increased antibiotic resistance.  GBS screening does not cause or risk infertility.

Shropshire Star, 24th April 2017, Pg6
Shropshire Star, 24th April, Pg7

Friday, 21 April 2017

UK Screening Programme for GBS Reduces Life-Threatening Infections By Over 80%

This week saw the release of information from a 22-month ground-breaking study by Northwick Hospital in London proving that GBS screening reduced the rate of life-threatening infections by 83%.

This is of course excellent news for all families affected by the tragedy of Group B Strep, but it also comes as no surprise because this is precisely what charity, Group B Strep Support and their excellent medical panel have been saying for years.  International research from countries that do test pregnant women for Group B Strep confirms that, when ECM Gold Standard swab testing is offered to women, then infection rates drop by over 70% and in some cases by as much as 90%.

The National Screening Committee has repeatedly refused to introduce GBS testing here in the UK for a number of reasons - they have cited a lack of UK based evidence (while also refusing to fund UK based studies) and they have also expressed concern over risk of increased complications if women were to have allergic reactions to penicillin (used to prevent Group B Strep passing from mother to baby) along with fears that it could increase antibiotic resistance.

Northwick Park Hospital had been following current UK guidelines for detecting Group B Strep, commonly referred to as The Risk Based Approach; but despite this, their infection rate was three times the national average.  So Dr Gopal Rao, Consultant Microbiologist at NPH decided to set up a trial GBS screening programme to find out whether or not this would help reduce the infection rate at the hospital.

Over the 22 month trial, 6,000 women voluntarily chose to accept Group B Strep testing using the ECM Gold Standard swab test.  During this time, only three babies born at the hospital contracted Group B Strep Infections and of those, only one of the mothers had accepted screening.  This study resulted in an overall fall of 63% in Group B Strep infections (taking into account those who refused the test) and 83% in women who accepted the test.  Crucially, there were no adverse reactions to either screening or treatment - no increased antibiotic resistance and no allergic reactions.  

In a deep irony, the results of the study have been published in the BMJ Open Medical Journal just days after the UK Screening Committee once again refused to introduce nationwide GBS testing insisting that there is "insufficient evidence" to support it.  

Here in Shropshire, Jeremy Hunt has recently announced an investigation into the preventable deaths of seven babies at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals and two of those preventable deaths were as a result of Group B Strep infections that were neither detected nor treated properly.  This investigation announcement also comes just under two months after Phillip Dunne MP, on behalf of Jeremy Hunt, responded to the petition seeking nationwide GBS screening that we presented to the Department of Health in January with over 250,000 signatures.  In his letter, the Minister rejected our request and insisted that the government were already doing all they could to prevent these devastating infections.

And yet, on average, in the UK:

2 babies every day develop Group B Strep infection
1 baby every week dies from Group B Strep infection
1 baby every week survives with disabilities as a result of Group B Strep infection

When will the Screening Committee, the Government, and the NHS wake up and smell the coffee?  It doesn't need to be this way.  These deadly infections can and should be prevented.  This study from Northwick Park Hospital proves it.

You can read more about this on the website of charity, Group B Strep Support here:  Northwick Park Hospital GBS Study or here:  LNWH NHS Trust

Thursday, 6 April 2017

How Many More Babies Must Die?

Today, Shropshire Coroner John Ellery, concluded that the death of baby Pippa Griffiths at just one day old was preventable.  Baby Pippa tragically died of a Group B Strep infection and so the headline in today's Shropshire Star, "How Many More Babies Must Die?" is wholly apt.

The Coroner has decided to pass his findings to the National Screening Committee and, as campaigners, we will continue to fight for prenatal GBS information and testing to be given to all pregnant women.

As campaigners, and more importantly, as parents personally and tragically affected by this terrible and preventable infection, we know all too well the pain the Griffiths family are feeling.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Shropshire Star, 6th April 2017