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Current UK NSC recommendations > Group B Streptococcus

The UK NSC recommendation on Group B Streptococcus screening in pregnancy (currently in consultation)


This recommendation is currently being reviewed as part of the UK NSC's regular review cycle of all policies.

The review process began in Oct 2015 and is estimated to be completed by Mar 2017.

» Download the expert review for Group B Streptococcus (PDF document, 3.86MB)

The UK NSC welcomes comments and feedback on the expert review during the consultation period that lasts from 28/10/2016 until 25/01/2017. Please send comments to Screening Evidence by e-mail using this feedback form.

Please note that all consultation submissions will be published on this page when the review is complete. Full details can be found in the confidentiality and disclosure section at the bottom of this page.

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended

Screening for GBS should not be offered to all pregnant women. This is because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the benefits to be gained from screening all pregnant women and treating those carrying the organism with intravenous antibiotics during labour would outweigh the harms.

The current UK rate of early onset GBS is comparable to that in countries in which screening is recommended. A significant burden of disease is found in risk groups whose management would not be affected by a screening programme. The ability of screening to significantly impact on mortality and long term morbidity caused by GBS is uncertain.

Systematic reviews of culture testing suggest that many screen positive women may no longer be carriers at the point of treatment. In the absence of a diagnostic test, current screening strategies are unable to distinguish between carriers whose babies will be affected by early onset GBS and those which would not. As a result many thousands of low risk women would receive intravenous antibiotic prophylaxis during labour. The consequences of expanding antibiotic usage in this way are unknown.

A number of Questions and Answers have been written to help explain the rationale (updated May 2015).


Find general information about population health screening.

More about Group B Streptococcus

GBS is one of many bacteria that can be present in our bodies. It usually causes no harm. This situation is called carrying GBS or being colonised with GBS. GBS is commonly found in the digestive system and the female reproductive system. It's estimated that about one in four pregnant women in the UK carry GBS.

Around the time of labour and birth, many babies come into contact with GBS and are colonised by the bacteria. Most pregnant women who carry GBS bacteria have healthy babies. However, there's a small risk that GBS can pass to the baby during childbirth. Rarely, GBS infection in newborn babies can cause serious complications that can be life-threatening.

Extremely rarely, GBS infection during pregnancy can also cause miscarriage, early (premature) labour or stillbirth. If a baby develops GBS infection less than seven days after birth, it's known as early-onset GBS infection. Most babies who become infected develop symptoms within 12 hours of birth.

It's estimated that about one in 2,000 babies born in the UK and Ireland develops early-onset GBS infection. This means that every year in the UK (with 680,000 births a year) around 340 babies will develop early-onset GBS infection.

There are a number of clinical risk factors which increase the risk of EOGBS sepsis. These include preterm birth (less than 37 weeks gestation), prolonged rupture of the membranes and maternal fever in labour. In the UK healthcare professionals are encouraged to identify and manage high risk pregnancies on the basis of an assessment of these risk factors.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have published a guideline for professionals and information for the public.

» View the professional guideline

» View the public information


Group B Strep Support
National Childbirth Trust
Royal College of Midwives
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Related documents

icon GBS FAQs May 2015 (PDF document, 71KB, 26/05/15)
icon Review of Group B Streptococcus against UK NSC criteria July 2012 (PDF document, 676KB, 16/07/12)

Confidentiality and disclosure

Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be subject to publication or release to other parties or to disclosure in accordance with the access to information regimes (these are primarily the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998, and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004). If you want information, including personal data that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, under the FOIA, there is a statutory Code of Practice with which public authorities must comply and which deals, amongst other things, with obligations of confidence.

In view of this it would be helpful if you could explain to us why you regard the information you have provided as confidential. If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as binding on the UK National Screening Committee.

Any request for information to be treated in confidence will be taken into consideration in the publication of responses to the consultation. The UK National Screening Committee intends to publish all responses following the closure of the consultation period, however we will not publish responses from respondents who request that any of the information in their response, including personal data, should be handled in confidence. The UK National Screening Committee reserves the right not to publish or take into account any representations which are openly offensive or defamatory.

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