PERHAPS a quarter to a third of all humans carry group B Streptococcus.
It’s a common bacterium found in the intestinal system and genital tract.
But despite its frequency, it still poses a risk to one of the most vulnerable sections of society – babies.
Many mothers may be carriers without even realising it and most babies will be unaffected.
But for the few who are, the consequences can be disastrous.
Daryl Stephenson, 35, lives in Ruabon with his wife Sarah, 38, and their children Daniel and Emily.
Sarah was 24 weeks into her pregnancy with daughter Hannah Rose when things went wrong.
Mr Stephenson said: “My daughter was stillborn at 24 weeks due to Strep B. She was born on the October 5, 2008.
“My wife Sarah went into very sudden labour and after feeling unwell and being checked over, she was told she may have a kidney infection.
“Hannah Rose was born around midnight, weighing one pound four ounces.”
The tiny baby simply was not strong enough to survive.
Mr Stephenson said: “The doctors and midwives of the Wrexham Maelor tried for 20 minutes to revive her – but she just did not make it.
“She was then sent to Cardiff for post mortem where she was found to be of normal development and condition.
“The only thing that was present and thought to be the cause of her premature birth was Strep B.”
Mr Stephenson, who works at the Village Bakery in Ruabon, said the family learned to cope with their loss in the intervening years.
He said: “We’ve been through some very dark times in the beginning but it made my wife and I stronger as a couple.
“My son, who was two at the time, still talks about her.
“We visit her grave as a family and take flowers, probably not as much we should, but she’s still part of our family and the memory never fades.
“Something was destroyed that night and will never be replaced. We now have had another little girl since then and things went fine after lots of testing to ensure a repeat of events didn’t happen.”
Mr Stephenson is now calling for routine testing to take place.
He said: “Many less developed countries routinely test for Strep B but the UK Government seems unwilling to carry out routine tests.
“The bacterium accounts for 40 deaths and 25 serious disabilities per year and this number is rising.
“I’ve also raised almost £500 for SANDS, the still birth and neonatal death charity, which people can give to by texting HMRF58 £amount to 70070.”
Allana Roberts, 22, of Connah’s Quay, is a young mother whose daughter Lily May Gillott is a few days from her first birthday.
Miss Roberts said: “I was affected by it. At 37 weeks pregnant with my little girl, I found out I had group B Strep.
“We only found out as I was in hospital worried my waters had broken – so they took a swab which showed I had the virus.
“If they hadn’t done that, we would never have known and the life of my little girl would have been at risk.”
Miss Roberts said that she was offered very little information, except for a standard hospital letter saying she had tested positive, alongside a leaflet.
Medics attempted treatment when the time came to give birth, but the treatment was not given time to work.
She said: “Once I was in labour, I had antibiotics to help my baby through an IV drip.
“However, I was only in labour a short time when my IV line fell out. The labour was so fast my little girl was born in less than two hours, which was not enough time for the antibiotics to take effect, so we were told.”
Little Lily May started exhibiting symptoms of having the virus and at one point she stopped breathing.
Miss Roberts said: “It was a shock. They took her to the table to revive her as soon as she was born and it worked, so they gave her back to me and she stopped breathing again.
“The nurses were great at making sure I was ok but I was told to go and have a shower and in the meantime they had to take Lily May to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) so when I came back, she wasn't there.
“I had to wait, not knowing what was happening.”
After five days in the NICU, where Miss Roberts was allowed to visit her, Lily May responded to the antibiotics.
Miss Roberts said: “We were allowed home after six days and were again just given a leaflet about what signs to look for to ensure our baby wasn’t displaying signs of the virus.
“To this day we haven’t been told whether she suffered as a result of the infection.
“We are just happy and very lucky that our lovely little girl is now fit and well and will be turning one at the beginning of August.
“I still find it very hard to believe that tests aren’t given as routine to expectant mothers, knowing that the consequences of the virus can be deadly for our newborn children.”
Fortunately, when detected and when treatment can be administered, the outcome is good,
Claire Marie Saunderson, 31, of Wrexham, was a carrier of group B Strep but gave birth without any complications to a healthy child.
She said: “They found it during my second pregnancy. They did an examination, took a swab and found it.
“I’d never heard of it before and I was worried about how it would affect my baby but they gave me antibiotics during labour and I was fine.
“During the third pregancy, they gave me antibiotics just in case – and that was fine too.
“I now have Catrin, who is 10, William, who is six and Sam, who is four.
“I’m glad they took the precautions of testing me, definitely, as there were no symptoms.”
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