Couple petition to make Group B Strep screening mandatory after their baby dies

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  • A couple who lost their baby after he contracted Group B Strep are fighting to get the government to make screening mandatory for all pregnant women.

    Shaheen McQuade gave birth to her baby boy in August last year, but sadly lost him just two weeks after first holding him.

    Zach Blackie died of meningitis, caused by a Group B strep infection, which his mum was unknowingly carrying.

    The sad tragedy could possibly have been prevented had Zach’s mum taken a swab test, but the test is currently not available on the NHS.

    That’s exactly what Shaheen and Craig, Zach’s parents, are trying to change. After gathering 12,000 signatures on a petition calling to make the swab test mandatory for all pregnant women, the couple presented the petition to Holyrood’s public petitions committee in Scotland.

    MSPs promised to take ‘definitive action’ and the Scottish Parliament will now be taking this matter to the government, in a bid to change how the NHS treats the diagnosis of Strep in pregnancy.

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    Speaking to Huffington Parents, Shaheen said: ‘This test is very important for people to know about. Group B Strep not only causes bacterial meningitis, it can cause sepsis and septicaemia, still births and miscarriages, and can leave children with mild or serve disabilities and development problems.’

    If doctors knew of Shaheen’s infection, had she been tested during pregnancy, they could given Zach antibiotics that could have saved his life.

    ‘I was devastated to learn that a simple swab would have alerted midwives that I was carrying this in the birth canal’, Shaheen said.

    ‘If I’d had a swab at the beginning of labour, Zach could have received antibiotics, which would have almost certainly prevented the infection being passed on to him and he would still be here. This is something I was never made aware of during pregnancy.’

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    According to the NHS, most babies who get infected with Group B Strep are treated successfully but one in 10 dies.

    Routine tests to check for Group B Strep in pregnant women are currently in place in countries like US, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

    The last time the practice was reviewed in the UK was in 2012, when the UK National Screening Committee concluded that not all pregnant women should be tested for Strep B.

    The reason behind their decision, according to the report, was that ‘there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the benefits to be gained from screening all pregnant women and treating those carrying the organism with intravenous antibiotics during labour would outweigh the harms.’

    Group B Strep tests cost about £35 if done privately, but research conducted by Public Health England says screening would cost the NHS £11.