Beta strep, also referred to as Group B streptococcus, is a type of bacteria that often affects pregnant women but can occur in anyone. It is related to the bacteria that causes strep throat. Beta step bacteria may, on rare occasions, result in a mild infection that can typically be easily treated with medication. If the infection is not effectively treated during pregnancy, it can be transmitted to the unborn child and cause serious health risks, as well as death.
The most common areas of the body for beta strep to form are the rectum, bladder, vagina, and mouth. Adults with the bacteria can usually remain healthy and have no symptoms. If the bacteria multiplies, it can result in infections of the bladder, kidneys, or uterus.
Since this kind of strep doesn’t generally cause any symptoms, pregnant women are generally tested for it so it can be treated to prevent spreading it to the unborn child. A doctor will typically take a cell sample from the vagina or rectum and examine it for signs of the bacteria. If the bacteria is present, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to get rid of it before it escalates into an infection. An untreated infection can result in health complications for the woman, such as an intense fever or pain during urination.
Even if the infection is treated with antibiotics before the birth, the bacteria can still grow back enough to infect the child during labor. Women who have tested positive for beta strep will typically be given a continuous stream of antibiotics directly into their veins during the entire labor process. This can help to further reduce the chances of the child coming into contact with any remaining bacteria.
A child who is born with beta strep transmitted from his or her mother may still be born healthy with no symptoms. If the bacteria ends up causing an infection in the child, it can have both short- and long-term health effects. It can result in a lung or blood infection or in serious cases, spread to the brain. A strep infection that affects the brain is more likely to cause more serious developmental problems, such as difficulty learning, as well as the possibility of deafness or blindness. The infection can be fatal in a child if it is not immediately treated with antibiotics.
Children who are infected with the bacteria may show few symptoms, which may not be easily detected. They may appear lethargic or moody. A child with the infection may refuse breast milk or formula, or may end up vomiting when he or she does eat. He or she may also have a high fever.