Research Article: Group B streptococcal screening, intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, and neonatal early-onset infection rates in an Australian local health district: 2006-2016

Date Published: April 4, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Kathryn Braye, Maralyn Foureur, Koert de Waal, Mark Jones, Elise Putt, John Ferguson, Christine E. East.


Intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) to reduce the likelihood of neonatal early-onset group B streptococcal infection (EOGBS) has coincided with major reductions in incidence. While the decline has been largely ascribed to IAP following either universal screening or a risk-based approach to identify mothers whose babies may most benefit from IAP, there is lack of high quality evidence to support this view.

To describe management of maternal GBS colonisation in one local health district using universal screening and assess rates of EOGBS over time.

A retrospective cohort study was undertaken to describe compliance with GBS management, to determine the incidence of EOGBS and association between rates and maternal screening. Linking routinely collected maternity and pathology data, we explored temporal trends using logistic regression and covariates for potential effect modifiers.

Our cohort included 62,281 women who had 92,055 pregnancies resulting in 93,584 live born babies. Screening occurred in 76% of pregnancies; 69% had a result recorded, 21.5% of those were positive for GBS. Prophylaxis was used by 79% of this group. Eighteen babies developed EOGBS, estimated incidence/1000 live births in 2006 and 2016 was 0.35 (95% CI, 0.07 to 0.63) and 0.1 (95% CI, 0 to 0.2) respectively. Seven of 10 term babies with EOGBS were born to mothers who screened negative. Data were unable to provide evidence of difference in rates of EOGBS between screened and unscreened pregnancies. We estimated the difference in EOGBS incidence from crude and weighted models to be 0 (95% CI, -0. 2 to 0.17) and -0.01 (95% CI, -0.13 to 0.10) /1000 live births respectively.

No change was detected in rates of EOGBS over time and no difference in EOGBS in babies of screened and unscreened populations. Screening and prophylaxis rates were modest. Limitations of universal screening suggest alternatives be considered.

Partial Text

Early-onset group B streptococcal infection (EOGBS) is a high impact event that, despite its low frequency, remains a significant cause of early infant morbidity and mortality [1]. To reduce the likelihood of EOGBS, intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis (IAP) was introduced in the 1980s and offered to women whose babies were thought to be most at risk. In the United States of America (USA), widespread use of IAP coincided with a decline in reported EOGBS rates; from 0.7/1000 live births in 1997 [2] to 0.22/ 1000 in 2016 [3]. However, since the pre-prevention era, the proportion of women and babies exposed to IAP has more than doubled (from 12% to 30%) in the USA and other high-income countries [4].

This cohort study describes the management of GBS risk in our LHD in an era of universal screening and describes analysis of the rates and trends of EOGBS in an 11-year period in a diverse range of birth settings.