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Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Taunton mother calls for Strep B tests during pregnancy
Justine and Harrison Baker
Justine with her son Harrison, who had Strep B twice when he was born

A mother from Taunton has called for strep B testing for all pregnant women.

Group B streptococcus is a bacteria that can be passed between the mother and child during a natural birth.

Justine Baker from Taunton didn't have the test and passed strep B onto her son Harrison: "We nearly lost him and were told at one point he had an hour to live and he was three days old."

It is the most common cause of blood infections and meningitis in newborns and often causes the death of the baby.

Nurse's intuition

Justine Baker's son contracted the infection twice after she gave birth at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

"When my waters went in hospital they took a swab and that's the only reason we knew what he had. They didn't have to, something made one of the midwives take it, so all these things were by accident that linked it together.

"Within two hours of him being born he did not stop crying - everyone knows newborns cry but this was different.

"They put him in special care because the senior neo-natal nurse took one look at him and for no medical reason whatsoever put him on antibiotics because something was niggling her. If she hadn't he would have been dead within six hours."

However the family's troubles were not over as the infection took hold again - which meant they had to take Harrison to Bristol Children's Hospital for treatment.

"It takes 48 hours to grow the infection from the swab and of course by then he was out and he was a day old and came back with Strep B."

'Potential risks'

Justine is now backing a campaign by the charity Strep B supporting their call for routine testing.

Spokesperson Jackie Plumb said: "There are no national guidelines saying that health care professionals should discuss it with pregnant women and in the UK we don't routinely test for it in pregnancy and because there is no national test midwives don't offer it."

The UK National Screening Committee which advises the government and the NHS has said the effectiveness of a screening programme has not been proven and the tests could not reliably identify who would have an affected baby.

It said such a move could result in a large number of women unnecessarily receiving intravenous antibiotics during labour which has potential risks.

But it says it welcomes new research and will look again at the evidence early next year.

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