Mum warns of deadly bacteria after baby nearly dies

Lauren McGregor and baby Kori who nearly died from meningitis caused by group B streptococcus bacteria.
Lauren McGregor and baby Kori who nearly died from meningitis caused by group B streptococcus bacteria.

A QUEENSLAND woman, and mum, is calling on the State Government to start testing every pregnant woman for the deadly, but common bacteria that almost claimed the life of her baby.

Lauren McGregor has started a petition which has 4000 signatures calling for the introduction of mandatory testing for group B streptococcus bacteria.

Queensland is the only state that doesn't offer women the test, despite the fact it is carried by one in four.

Instead, only women who are considered at risk, or show symptoms of an infection from the bacteria, are treated with antibiotics during labour.

This month the state is due to review its guidelines and Mrs McGregor wants the policy changed.

"I don't want other mothers to go through what I did," Mrs McGregor said.

"It was the most horrible thing I had ever seen. I felt completely helpless.

"I couldn't even think. I don't think I would have been able to function if I lost her."

Baby Kori nearly died from meningitis caused by a Strep B infection.
Baby Kori nearly died from meningitis caused by a Strep B infection.

Six weeks after 28-year-old Lauren gave birth she woke up to her new born baby girl having a seizure. She called the ambulance straight away and within an hour her baby girl Kori was on life support.

It took medical staff a few days to figure what was wrong and for the next week the woman, who has family living in Gladstone, thought her child would die.

She watched in horror for the next three weeks as baby Kori struggled to survive.

"It was awful to see (my niece) hooked up to all those machines; to see a baby so helpless," her brother, Gladstone man Mitch McGregor, said.

"It's a simple screening process; if it saves one baby's life, it's worth it."

Six months later, Mrs McGregor still has no idea what difficulties her daughter will face as a result of permanent damage which could affect her speech, movements and general mental function.

Baby Kori, mum Lauren McGregor and dad Brandon Baumgartner.
Baby Kori, mum Lauren McGregor and dad Brandon Baumgartner.

But she wants to make sure other Queensland women know the words "group B streptococcus bacteria" in the hope they can avoid the same traumatic experience.

"So many women I have spoken to don't even know what it is, they've never heard of it," Mrs McGregor said. It affects one in every 1000 Australian babies.

A vaginal swab generally carried out at 36 weeks, at a cost of less than $100, will show whether the woman carries the bacteria.

And right now Queensland is the only state that doesn't offer pregnant women the test at 36 weeks.

In this state only women who show symptoms during pregnancy or the actual birth, such as if the labour is prolonged or if the mother has a temperature during labour are treated.

But group B streptococcus is difficult to detect during pregnancy and normally does not show any symptoms.

Queensland Health says its 'risk-based' approach is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

"Queensland has specific clinical guidelines in place for the management of early onset group B streptococcal disease. These guidelines are evidence-based and have been developed in consultation with expert clinicians," Queensland Health's Dr Michael Cleary said.

In New South Wales and the ACT, hospitals have a choice of offering the swab to every pregnant woman at 36 weeks, or taking the same approach as Queensland - risk-based assessment. Hospitals in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia all test every woman.

Sign Lauren's petition here.

The bacteria

The bacteria group B streptococcus is commonly found in the bowel of men and women and in the vagina of one in four women.

If passed to the baby during birth it can result in a serious blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis.

Strep B a hot topic in UK

THE debate on whether or not to introduce nationwide mandatory testing is raging in Britain at the moment where one in every 250 babies is affected.

In up to 12% of those cases the baby dies.

A risk-based strategy is also used in Britain but a study released this month by the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust found screening at one particular hospital reduced cases of new borns being infected by 80%.

The 18-month long study screened more than 5300 mothers. It also found screening reduced the overall cost to the public system by £250,000 by reducing the number of sickly babies in need of care.

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