Group B Streptococcus Infection, Newborn

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria that can cause an infection in a newborn. This bacteria is often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women. GBS can cause serious infections in pregnant women and newborns. Being a carrier for GBS does not mean the mother has an infection. Most newborns who are exposed to GBS from their mother do not get infected. A baby has a higher risk of getting an infection if:

  • The baby was born early (prematurely).

  • The mother's water breaks more than 18 hours before birth.

  • The mother has a fever during labor.

  • The mother previously had a child with the GBS infection.

  • The mother has a GBS infection in her urine.

GBS can cause 2 types of infections in a baby:

  • Early onset:

  • Infection occurs in the first 7 days of the baby's life.

  • Infection occurs when the GBS bacteria are passed from the mother to the baby, most often during labor and birth.

  • Late onset:

  • Infection is discovered after the first 7 days of the baby's life.

  • Infection occurs from contact with people other than the mother.

Both early and late onset GBS infection in the newborn usually causes one or more of the following:

  • Blood infection (septicemia).

  • Lung infection (pneumonia).

  • Infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).


This infection is caused by the bacterium Steptococcus agalactiae.


The symptoms vary depending on where the infection is. The most common symptoms in a newborn are:

  • Grunting when breathing.

  • Rapid or difficult breathing.

  • Periods where breathing stops (apnea).

  • Poor feeding.

  • Little or no activity.

  • Poor muscle tone.

  • High or low body temperature.

  • Decreased oxygen in the blood.


GBS is diagnosed by testing the blood, urine, and spinal fluid for GBS bacteria. These tests are called cultures. Cultures can take 1 to 2 days to show results. Chest X-ray may be performed as well.


Treatment for GBS is started as soon as it is suspected (before the test results come back). The main treatment is medicines given through an intravenous (IV) tube. If baby is too sick to feed, fluids are given through an IV tube. Sometimes a baby needs extra oxygen. To help the baby breathe better, oxygen may be given by a oxygen hood, nasal cannula, or a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator). The baby is closely monitored in an intensive care unit. The duration of treatment depends on:

  • Where the infection is located.

  • If there are complications.


You go home and:

  • Your newborn becomes lethargic, sleepy, or irritable.

  • Your newborn has a poor appetite or is not interested in eating.

  • Your newborn develops a rash.

  • Your newborn has a decreased amount of wet diapers.


You go home and:

  • Your newborn who is younger than 3 months has a fever or a low body temperature.

  • Your newborn has trouble breathing.

  • Your newborn becomes pale or blue in color.

  • You are not able to wake up your newborn or your newborn is floppy.