Monday, June 27, 2022

Attempts to infect newborns “will fail” unless government intervenes, experts warn

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A clinical trial testing pregnant women for group B streptococcus (GBS) – the leading cause of life-threatening infections in newborns – will fail unless the government steps in, experts have warned.

About 80 hospitals are needed for the study to go ahead, but only 32 have committed, with a September registration deadline.

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and will examine whether testing women for group B strep reduces the risk of babies dying or being harmed.

Now demands Dr. Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, who lost her son Theo to the infection, is calling on the Government and NHS England to step in to ensure the process continues.

She said: “The reality is that this trial will fail unless another 48 hospitals enroll in this trial.

“The government is awaiting the results of this study to decide whether to test pregnant women for group B strep.

“Yet there seems to be little acknowledgment that this attempt is headed for failure.

“We need more hospitals on board and we need to make sure the investment in this study is not wasted.

“This is about saving babies’ lives, and it really is now or never.”

According to the charity, several local MPs have contacted hospitals themselves after being urged to do so by the public.

dr Plumb said: “We are all interested in the results, but if not enough hospitals participate, the study will fail.

“What are the Government and the NHS doing to ensure this process is a success?”

According to the charity, the threshold for excess treatment costs – the amount a trust must invest in research before receiving reimbursement – has also been lowered, meaning the costs shouldn’t discourage trusts from signing up.

Data shows that in the UK an average of two babies develop GBS infection every day, resulting in one death per week and one baby with long-term disabilities.

Many other countries, including the US, are already searching for the infection.

The new study, dubbed GBS3, is being led by researchers at the University of Nottingham.

It is examining whether testing reduces the risk of infection in newborns compared to the current policy in the UK.

The current strategy is to offer antibiotics during labor to women who are at increased risk of their baby developing group B streptococcal infection.

Two different tests are examined – a laboratory test three to five weeks before the woman is due and a bedside test at the onset of labour.

dr Carol Baker, whose work led to the introduction of universal GBS testing in the United States, said: “The United States introduced routine testing for group B streptococcus for all pregnant women 20 years ago, and rates of early-onset group B streptococcal infection in babies plummeted then by more than 80%.

“Other countries have seen similar declines but UK rates are rising.

“This study and results are critical to stemming the rising tide of GBS infections in British babies.”

Olympic runner Iwan Thomas, whose first child, Teddy, has GBS, said: “Watching Teddy fight for his life covered in tubes in the intensive care unit was by far the worst experience of my life.

“Fortunately, Teddy has recovered well from his group B strep infection, but I know there are those less fortunate whose children have died or survived with life-changing disabilities.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about the success of the GBS3 trial so other families don’t have to go through what I and so many others are going through.

“It is outrageous that in 2022 babies will be getting sick and dying from a preventable infection.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Protecting pregnant women and their babies from disease is an absolute priority as we address disparities in maternity care across the country.

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