Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococcus (GBS)), remains the leading cause of neonatal sepsis and meningitis in many countries and an important cause of disease in pregnant women, immunocompromised adults and the elderly. Intrapartum antibiotic strategies have reduced the incidence of early-onset neonatal GBS where applied, but have had no impact on late onset GBS infection and only a limited impact on disease in pregnant women. In low/middle income settings, the disease burden remains uncertain although in several countries of Southern Africa appears comparable to that of high-income countries. Disease may be rapidly fulminating and cases therefore missed before appropriate samples are obtained. This may lead to significant underestimation of the true burden and be a particular issue in many African and Asian countries; comprehensive epidemiological data from such countries are urgently required. The available data suggest that the serotype distribution of GBS isolates is similar in Africa, Western Pacific, Europe, the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean regions and has not changed over the past 30 years. Five serotypes (Ia, Ib, II, III, V) account for the majority of disease; conjugate vaccines including some or all of these serotypes therefore hold great promise for preventing this important disease.
Keywords: GBS in pregnancy; GBS vaccine; Global epidemiology; Group B streptococcus; Neonatal disease.
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