antenatal screening programme

Group B streptococcus

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacteria which is commonly found in the digestive system and the female reproductive system. It usually causes no harm. A pregnant women may pass on the bacteria to her baby. If a baby is infected with GBS before they are a week old they are said to have early-onset GBS.

Read more about GBS on the NHS website.

UK NSC screening recommendation Based on the last UK NSC review of this condition that occurred in March 2017.

Screening is not currently recommended for this condition.

Screening pregnant women for GBS is not recommended by the UK NSC because:

  • a woman may have a positive result a few weeks before labour and a negative result when she gives birth
  • GBS does not cause an infection in every baby- there is no way of telling which babies will be affected
  • screening may result in giving many women antibiotics when they do not need them
  • it is not known if the benefits of screening outweigh the harms for most of the population
  • the proportion of babies affected by disease in countries where screening is carried out is similar to that in the UK

The UK NSC will next review the evidence on screening for GBS following the conclusion of the GBS3 trial. This is a cluster randomised trial which aims to find out if screening women for GBS colonisation in late pregnancy or labour reduces the occurrence of early-onset neonatal sepsis, compared to the current risk factor based strategy.

Supporting documents from the 2017 review

Evidence summary Group B Streptococcus (2017) compressed
This document provides the evidence on which the current UK NSC recommendation is based.

UK NSC coversheet and consultation responses GBS (2017)
This document summarises the review process including the public consultation comments.

Review cycle

Date previous review completed: 2017

Next review estimated to be completed: 2021 to 2022.

To see previous evidence reviews, visit the UK NSC archive.

Organisations interested in Group B streptococcus

These organisations have expressed interest in this recommendation and may submit responses to evidence reviews.

List of organisations

If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us.