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  1. ITV Report

Research suggests screening pregnant women for infection could cut risk to newborns

Research suggests that screening pregnant women for a deadly infection, which claimed the life of at least one baby at the centre of an investigation ordered by Jeremy Hunt, can dramatically cut the risk to newborns.

Jeremy Hunt has ordered an investigation into the way some baby deaths were investigated at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Credit: ITV News Central

Group B Strep (GBS) caused the death of one-day-old Pippa Griffiths last year while under the care of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

A coroner ruled her death could have been prevented if GBS had been spotted earlier. Health Secretary Mr Hunt has ordered an investigation into at least seven avoidable baby deaths that occurred within two years at the trust.

A post-mortem showed that GBS was also a factor in the death Jack Burn, who died at the trust in 2015.

A study from London North West Healthcare NHS Trust found an 83% drop in the number of babies developing the bacterial infection GBS, which is the most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies.

The NHS does not currently recommend screening for GBS. Women living in other countries, including the US, Canada, France, Germany and Slovenia, are routinely offered a test.

London North West Healthcare NHS Trust said it carried out the pilot study because too many babies at the trust were developing GBS, despite it following NHS recommendations on managing risk.

In the new study, more than 6,000 pregnant women received a screening test for GBS in the form of vaginal swabs. Women who tested positive for GBS were offered antibiotics in labour to reduce the chance of passing on the infection to their baby.

Last month, the UK National Screening Committee rejected GBS screening in pregnancy saying there was "insufficient evidence" of its benefit.

According to the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, 518 newborn babies in the UK and Ireland were made ill as a result of the bacteria, 27 died and dozens more were left with disabilities in the year to April 2015.