The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Pregnant women in Leeds will be the first in the Yorkshire region to be routinely tested for Group B Streptococcus, as part of major research study

18 July 2022

Pregnant women and people receiving their maternity care from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will become the first in the UK to be routinely offered a test for group B Streptococcus (GBS), as part of an important new research study.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme and sponsored by the University of Nottingham, seeks to evaluate whether testing pregnant women to see if they carry GBS reduces the risk of infection in newborn babies, and therefore is more effective than the current risk factor based strategy in place in the UK.

Kate Robinson, Senior Research Midwife at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust explained “Many women have been campaigning for a number of years for this test to be made routine on the NHS. The opportunity for this to be available to the women that we care for is incredibly important.”

In the UK, approximately one in four pregnant women carries GBS, which is a common bacteria that normally causes no harm, in their vagina and rectum (back passage). If a woman carries GBS, her baby may be exposed to it during labour and birth and become colonised with the bacteria. Although most babies who are exposed to GBS remain well, there is a very small chance of a baby becoming seriously ill or even dying. In order to reduce these risks, women with GBS are offered intravenous antibiotics throughout their labour and during birth.

Midwives in the UK currently identify pregnant women who may be at risk of their baby developing a GBS infection using a checklist of risk factors. As part of this new trial, women will be offered the rapid test using a swab sample, at their bedside when they are admitted to have their baby. It is hoped that this routine testing will greatly improve the accuracy of identifying women with GBS and therefore decrease the risk to their babies, as well as to reduce the amount of antibiotics administered unnecessarily.

The trial, which is being managed by the University of Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit, has allocated Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to begin offering the rapid test in labour. The study is being supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Yorkshire and Humber.

Mr Jonathan Nelson, Consultant in Obstetrics at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We are really pleased to be the first hospital in the region to offer testing for this trial, and look forward to learning whether it is as beneficial to our women as we hope it will be.

The fact that Leeds women will be the first in the region to benefit from this study is a real testament to the brilliant team effort at the Trust. The collaboration of the Research and Innovation team and our Research Midwives and Nurses through to our passionate midwifery workforce in the hospital and the community has been instrumental to set the study set up, change guidelines and train staff.”

The study aims to assess a total of 320,000 pregnant women throughout 80 different hospital maternity units across the UK. Each hospital will be randomised to different elements of the study. For further information about the study, please visit: https://www.gbs3trial.ac.uk/home.aspx