A group B hemolytic strep infection is caused by a particular strain of the streptococcus bacterium. Also known as Streptococcus agalactiae, this microscopic pathogen is actually quite common in a person's body and usually poses no threat for a healthy adult. But for babies, seniors and people with compromised immune systems, S. agalactiae may lead to serious complications.
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Group B streptococcus (GBS) is commonly found along the throat, bladder, rectum, intestines or vagina. But the presence of S. agalactiae doesn't necessarily cause an illness. It usually isn't until the pathogen enters the bloodstream that you'll suffer an infection.
One of the more common occurrences of GBS infection is in newborns. This is especially common when the bacterium is found in the mother's vagina. During a vaginal delivery, it's possible for the mother to pass the bacteria to her child. The elderly and people suffering from diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, HIV and cancer are also susceptible to GBS infections because they frequently have compromised immune systems that allow the bacteria to invade the bloodstream.
Newborns who have contracted a group B hemolytic strep infection, will appear lethargic, have problems with feeding and have a fever. As they get older, the symptoms change slightly. Along with lethargy, fever and feeding issues, your infant may also begin to suffer from a respiratory tract infection and seizures. In adults, symptoms aren't common, but you may experience fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramping, low blood pressure and the chills.
In both newborns and adults, treatment largely relies on prescription antibiotics. However, the method in which these medications are administered will vary depending on age and health. In newborns (and sometimes the elderly), antibiotics are given intravenously. If respiration is affected, supplemental oxygen may be administered. Adults are given oral antibiotics. These should be taken until the prescription runs out to avoid recurrence of the illness.
A fluid sample is all your doctor needs to determine if you have S. agalactiae. Expectant mothers who test positive for the pathogen will be given a course of antibiotics to help rid the body of the bacteria prior to delivery.
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