Group B Streptococcal Septicemia of the Newborn
Alternate Names : GBS Sepsis
Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria. Septicemia is a serious infection of the bloodstream. Newborn infants sometimes develop serious bloodstream infections with GBS bacteria.
What is going on in the body?
The immune system does not mature for several months after birth. For this reason, bacteria such as GBS that do not usually affect older children or adults easily infect newborns. GBS can actually live in the vagina of normal, healthy women without causing an infection or symptoms.
However, infants born to women with GBS in their vagina may become infected with GBS. The bacteria can be transmitted from the woman's vagina to the baby before or during labor and delivery. In some cases, infants get this infection after birth from other sources. If an infant develops an infection with GBS, it may spread to the bloodstream. The infection can then spread to many areas of the body and may even cause death.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Infection before or during labor and delivery generally only occurs if the mother has GBS in her vagina. An unborn child is more likely to become infected after the mother's water breaks. Infection is also more likely to occur in an infant if:
the child is born prematurely, or before 36 weeks of pregnancy. The more premature the infant, the higher the risk.
the mother has a fever during labor
the mother has previously given birth to an infected infant
the child is African-American, as the rate of GBS infection is higher in this group than in white infants