Early-onset group B streptococcal sepsis: a current assessment

J Pediatr. 1992 Sep;121(3):428-33. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(05)81801-3.


Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a common cause of early-onset sepsis in neonates. The most recent reviews describing incidence, diagnosis, treatment, and outcome evaluated data on patients from the early 1980s. To obtain current information about this disease, we retrospectively evaluated data on neonates with GBS early-onset sepsis from nine hospitals in the United States between Jan. 1, 1987, and Dec. 31, 1989. There were 245 infants with GBS bacteremia identified among 61,809 live births, resulting in an incidence of 0.32%. Ninety-six infants (39%) were preterm (less than 38 weeks of gestational age). Maternal risk factors for infected preterm and term infants were similar. Antibiotics were administered during parturition in 10% of infants with bacteremia. Mothers of preterm infants received antibiotics up to 48 hours before delivery; mothers of term infants received antibiotics less than 4 hours before delivery. All preterm infants with bacteremia had symptoms; 22% of term infants with bacteremia had no symptoms. Group B streptococcal meningitis was confirmed in 6.3% of infants. Although 86% survived, GBS sepsis increased the birth weight-specific mortality rate up to eightfold in preterm infants and more than 40-fold in term infants. Although the incidence of GBS early-onset sepsis is not changing, we speculate that the improved birth weight-specific survival rate and the changing clinical presentation are due to improved intrapartum and neonatal management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteremia / epidemiology*
  • Birth Weight
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Streptococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae*
  • Survival Rate