Boost in bid for routine screening of pregnant mums

Melanie Gilson with her daughter Isla.Isla contracted a condition called Group B strep shortly after

Melanie Gilson with her daughter Isla.Isla contracted a condition called Group B strep shortly after birth. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

A Norfolk mother whose daughter was infected with a potentially life-threatening disease has made fresh calls for routine screening of unborn babies.

Melanie Gilson, from Gorleston, is campaigning for better treatment to prevent group B streptococcal (GBS) in pregnancy having almost lost her first child Isla to the little-known illness.

GBS is a usually harmless bacteria carried by around a fifth of pregnant women, which can become life-threatening if exposed to infants around the time of labour.

Hundreds of babies are infected with the disease every year with dozens dying and more suffering long-term mental and physical disabilities.

Campaigners have been urging the government to offer routine screening to pregnant women, as current guidance is only for expectant mothers in 'high risk' groups to be offered it and even then only a less reliable screening method, which is said to miss many cases.

The campaign has gathered momentum after a coroner called for the policy to be reviewed following the death of baby Edward Paddon-Bramley, in London, who suffered brain damage caused by GBS in 2014. A petition set up by Edward's mother, Fiona Paddon, calling for GBS screening to be routinely offered has received more than 210,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust has also completed a screening pilot for GBS, showing an 80pc reduction in cases of newborns being infected with the bacteria.

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Public Health England said it remained opposed to routine screening, however, highlighting a review, which could find 'no clinical indication' for its introduction, while warning of the risk of 'unnecessary antibiotic use'.

Mrs Gilson and the Group B Strep Support charity said they hoped the mounting pressure would change the Government's position.

'It's great that the campaign is getting more support,' she said. 'But it's awful for the parents who have lost their child that it has taken something so drastic for the right people to finally start paying attention.'

Mrs Gilson said she had never heard about the disease until after her baby almost died.

Isla was born at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston in August 2012, but was soon diagnosed with meningitis, a potentially deadly disease, which can cause lifelong disabilities, including blindness, deafness and learning impairments and had been brought on by GBS.

Despite initially being told to prepare for the worst, she has since made a full recovery.

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