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Meningitis and Group B Streptococci

Topic Overview

Some people carry group B streptococcus bacteria in their body but don't get sick. Without knowing it, a woman who has group B streptococci in her birth canal or in her colon can pass the bacteria to her baby during delivery, causing the baby to develop meningitis.

Meningitis caused by these bacteria also occurs in adults older than 60, especially those with long-term conditions such as diabetes, cancer, alcohol dependence, and liver or kidney failure. Group B streptococci cause meningitis in about 15% of the people who get bacterial meningitis in the United States every year.1

New guidelines for prevention of group B streptococci have decreased the incidence of disease. The guidelines include recommending prenatal screening of all pregnant women at 35 to 37 weeks and giving antibiotics during labor to women who have the bacteria.2

References

Citations

  1. Roos KL, Tyler KL (2012). Meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, and empyema. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3410–3434. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Verani JR, et al. (2010). Prevention of perinatal group B streptococcal disease: Revised guidelines from CDC, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR-10): 1–36. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5910a1.htm?s_cid=rr5910a1_w.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Last Revised December 6, 2012

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