New Strep Vaccine For Pregnant Women Found Effective

Daisy Cousens

Infant mortality rates from the infection set to drop dramatically.

A newly funded initiative for a Group B Streptococcal (GBS) vaccine that could save the lives of thousands of babies worldwide each year has survived its phase two trial. Passed from mother to child, GBS claims the lives of 70 babies a year in the UK alone.

“GBS is responsible for up to 50 per cent of life-threatening bacterial infections in newborn infants and carries a significant risk of either long-term disability or death,” says BioKinetic medical director, Dr David Bell of BioKinetic Europe, who donated a $2.8million grant towards the vaccine in February last year.

GBS can cause an infection in women of any age, but is fairly harmless in adults. However, it proves very serious in infants. Cases are relatively rare, with around one in 2000 babies affected in the US, but cause enormous complications. Newborns are at risk of severe infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis. In fact, the infection is the leading cause of meningitis in babies who are less than a week old. Roughly two to three per cent of infants who develop strep B will die.

A vaccination for pregnant women will be game changer in women’s health, and potentially save the lives of many infants.

“The development of a safe and effective vaccine for GBS is a very important step in trying to eliminate GBS infection in newborn babies, and will have a significant impact on mortality and morbidity,” states Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Jim Wells.

“I look forward to hearing the outcome of this clinical trial by BioKinetic Europe.”

Aside from reducing infant mortality rates, the introduction of a vaccine would have a dramatic effect on pregnancy and birth. The 25 per cent of  women who receive antibiotics for GBS during labor would no longer require them, thus eliminating the exposure of newborns to antibiotics and facilitating an easier birth. The one in 2000 statistic of babies who develop GBS infections would decrease, especially as antibiotics administered while giving birth are largely ineffective against late-onset GBS (between seven and 89 days-old).

Although the trial process of the vaccination is well and truly underway, many more subjects are needed over several more stages. It is still a few years away from full approval by the FDA.