Research: Pathogenic Group B Streptococcus (GBS) an Under-Recognized Cause of UTIs

GBS and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) Can Cause Serious Complications in Newborns

GBS is a known cause of infection in pregnant women, with subsequent risks of preterm delivery and transmission to newborn infants, often with devastating consequences, such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, meningitis, sepsis (blood infection), pneumonia, hearing loss, blindness and even death.  Urinary tract infections (UTIs) also can cause tragic birth complications, such as premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) and preterm PROM.  PROM is associated with 30 – 40% of all preterm deliveries, and can cause complications such as infection, cerebral palsy, placental abruption, fetal distress, fetal restriction deformities and pulmonary hypoplasia, and fetal/neonatal death.

GBS May Be More Likely Than E. Coli to Cause UTIs

Microbiologist Dr. Glen Ulett, from the Griffith Institute for Health and Medical Research, reports that pathogenic strains of GBS have been shown to bind to the surface of human bladder cells as the first step in the development of UTIs.  “Affected cells appear to change their morphology and secrete significant amounts of interleukin, an inflammatory cytokine which activates the body’s immune system.”  He said the interleukin levels associated with GBS infection were significantly higher than those associated with Escherichia coli, the cause of 90 percent of UTIs. The findings have appeared in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“The fact that GBS causes more inflammation than E. coli was the exact opposite to what we expected and supports the notion that GBS urinary tract infection is unique and may cause disease at a lower bacterial count than is typical,” Dr. Ulett said.

He said because GBS is part of the normal microbial flora of the genital tract in about 40 percent of healthy women, isolation of the bacteria in urine samples was often attributed to contamination of the sample rather than a possible indicator of disease.

“Because there are no clearly defined risk factors for GBS infection, the high prevalence of the bacteria, and the difficulties of diagnosis, we are probably often overlooking this organism as a cause of UTIs.”

“Importantly, we showed that GBS serotype III was the only serotype more commonly associated with UTIs compared with other serotypes. This gives us a better understanding of the potential targets for vaccine development.”

Every Effort Should Be Made to Protect Babies from GBS and UTIs

He said while a vaccine to protect women against GBS UTIs may not be a priority on its own, it may be a spin-off benefit from the need to protect newborn infants against fulminating GBS infection through maternal vaccination.

UTIs and Medical Malpractice

birth asphyxia and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) attorneysGBS has a great chance of causing a UTI, and pregnant women should routinely be tested for it.  UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections during pregnancy.  If not treated, a UTI poses serious risks to the newborn baby.  Some patients do not exhibit outward symptoms of a UTI.  Given the prevalence of UTIs during pregnancy (1 in 10 pregnant women suffer from a UTI), it is essential that women be closely monitored and tested for the condition.  It is negligence when a mother is not appropriately tested and treated for UTIs.   If this negligence leads to injury of the mother or baby, it is medical malpractice. The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh believe that medical practitioners must be held accountable for mistakes that cause harm to their patients. If you feel you or your child have been harmed by medical malpractice due to an undiagnosed UTI, please contact us for a free case evaluation.

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