Group B Streptococcus: an introduction

One of the organisms I work with is the group B streptococcus, Streptococcus agalactiae ("GBS"). This is a relative of the bacterium that causes strep throat. Typically, GBS causes disease in the very young and older age groups; it's one of the most common causes of meningitis in newborns, for instance. This has dropped some in recent years, as obstetricians have implemented procedures to screen expectant mothers to see if they're carrying GBS (as about a quarter of healthy adults do), and then provide antibiotics to carriers during labor (thereby preventing infection of the baby during labor and birth).

However, despite these guidelines, babies are still dying from this infection:

About 5 percent of babies infected with Group B strep die. Most who survive develop normally, but among those who develop meningitis as a result of GBS, up to 50 percent suffer lasting neurologic damage that can include cerebral palsy, sight and hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities and seizures.

This comes from a recent article that covers the issue pretty well, discussing the problems with diagnosis and prevention, how women can act as their own advocates for treatment, and the need for an effective vaccine (that could therefore minimize the need for antibiotics during labor). Education about GBS is increasing, but too many at-risk women still aren't hearing the message about screening--the article is a good introduction to the issues.

More like this

[From the archives; originally posted October 27, 2005] Pili (singular: pilus) are bacterial organelles--thin tubes of protein that function in attachment and bacterial sex, as well as immune evasion. Traditionally, studies of pili have been carried out in gram-negative bacteria, such as E. coli…
I wrote here that pili--long, filamentous surface molecules involved in adhesion and bacterial "sex"--had recently been discovered in gram positive organisms; pecifically, in group A and B streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus agalactiae, respectively), using a genomics approach…
Okay, so I lied. I was planning to wrap up the emerging diseases and zoonoses series with the post on monkeypox, but I think I'll just continue it as a sporadic event, since a new paper fits into the series perfectly. I talk a lot here about streptococcus. As regular readers know, there's a…
I've mentioned a few times the work of Ignaz Semmelweis in preventing "childbed fever" in new mothers. To recap: Semmelweis was a physician in Vienna in the 1840s, with an interested in "childbed fever," a leading cause of mortality in women who'd given birth. During this time, he noticed that the…

To be fair, the GBS prophylaxis guidelines are only in place to prevent early-onset GBS infection, which occurs in the first three days of life. It has reduced the occurence of this disease by 50%. The guidelines, even when meticulously practiced, make no impact on GBS infection after 3 days of life. In these cases, the source of the infection can be mom, a nurse, a medical student, a respiratory therapist, etc, etc. But not me. I'm clean.

In case I didn't make my point with that last comment, and so I can have another shot at the comment contest prizes, I'd like to tell everyone reading who is involved in the care of newborns or other hospitalized children to wash their damn hands.

(Just stopped by to read an eventual answer to my latest contribution but it's all gone! Bummer! Well, probably wiped away by accident because it was preceded by a couple of nonsense (spam?) entries. Well, what the heck. I try it again.)

Tara, why don't you take a little time every once in a while and see what happens if you consider things the other way around?


A person is ill because certain bacteria are present


A person is ill hence the presence of certain bacteria.

I think you should cut out the RE of research every once in a while and go for a search in new places, it can be very exciting, really. Go for it, Google "Antoine Bechamp". NOW.

Well, maybe you shouldn't. Maybe you're really more fit to stick to the fancy places. Where would you possibly be welcome to blog about Antoine Bechamp and the like? Certainly not on scienceblogs! Besides, people would immediately start to call you all sorts of names. Being a denialist can be very uncomfortable, you know.

Do you have an experiment that can be done independently to give some credence to this? So far most of your replies have been "oh think a little harder and you'll get it". but my brain hurts after all that thinking, so do you have a single experiment that conclusively proves that the bacteria are a result of the illness and not the cause?
And please, if your response is just going to be "You need to think harder to see the light" then please don't waste your time posting it. I'm interested in *the* experiment that will prove your perspective, that is all, not some condescending rant.

That's not an answer, jspreen, it's dodging the question and avoiding the unpleasant fact that your ideas are nonsensical hand waving that CANNOT be backed up by any measurable evidence.

Yeah. Talk to people with cancer. Ask them if they ever cried. How many you think say yes. Let me just go out on a limb here 100%??

So crying causes cancer. Think about it until you see the light.

OK talk to people without cancer. Ask them if there was a minute in their life when they weren't crying. 100% again! So not crying protecs you from cancer!!

It's like Reverend Billy Reuben says sickness is caused by sin and the absence of sin. Everything is so easy when you believe. You see a light and your converted.

The 'experiment' you gave me was not really sufficient. Do you have an animal model? Something I could do on mice would be fantastic. The fewer variables that I can't control the better. Your suggestion of just asking a random person with breast cancer does not really lend itself to easy reproducibility and independent verification. The 'experiment' you described doesn't really seem like a smoking gun to me, there are a number of factors that could account for things. Do you have the one paper/experiment which proves what you believe is correct?

You know adele, if anything crying can cure cancer. It's a scientific fact that chuck norris's tears can cure cancer.

Pastor Billy Rebuen correct again! Cancer is caused by crying and by absence of crying! Sin and the absence of sin. Put your trust in Dr. Lyh-Shing Cho, MD, PHD, GENIUS and BOW YOUR HEAD you will be saved guaranteed. Or chuck norris. Whatever works for you.

jspreen, The 'experiment' you gave me was not really sufficient.

The heck it wasn't! It's not even an experiment. It's the first paragraph of an explanation that, if you had a little patience, would put you on your way to realize lot of things among which the evidence that microbes do not cause disease. The experiment will eventually follow, but before comes comprehension.