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Diagnosis breakthrough may help to cut down infant mortalities.

A MORE accurate and faster diagnostic test for infection in newborn babies could allow better treatment and reduce the risk of death, according to a leading expert in microbiology at Swansea University.

Hilary Lappin-Scott, a professor of microbiology at Swansea University and president of the Society for General Microbiology said new research carried out by the Health Protection Agency into group B streptococcus infections was highly promising and could help in reducing infant fatalities.

Group B streptococcus (GBS) infections, caused by the bacterium streptococcus agalactiae, are the most common cause of meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia in newborn babies.

In 2010 there were 506 cases of GBS infections in infants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with 28 of those in Wales.

GBS bacteria live harmlessly in the female genital tract of women and are carried by 20-30% of pregnant women. GBS can be transmitted from mothers to newborns during delivery.

Professor Lappin-Scott said: I very much welcome the latest research from the streptococcus reference unit of the Health Protection Agency.

"This test will enable very rapid diagnosis, based uponmolecular techniques. It is a very promising breakthrough and may support more rapid intervention by clinicians to better manage what can be fatal infections in newborn infants." Dr Aruni De Zoysa, senior scientist at the streptococcus reference unit, who developed the new diagnostic test, believes that this test should have a positive impact on management of GBS infections in babies.

She said: "If we can allow clinicians to diagnose GBS infection quickly and accurately, this will mean antibiotic treatment can start sooner. Better management of the disease in this way should reduce the risk of mortality. Currently, GBS infection is only able to be diagnosed by taking blood samples and waiting for the bacteria to grow in the laboratory, which is time-consuming and can sometimes be unreliable.

"Our new test, although still in the early stages of development, is an invaluable tool that is based on detecting DNA, which makes diagnosis far more accurate and allows us to get results much faster. As there is no vaccine at present for GBS, rapid and accurate detection of GBS bacterium is crucial... "
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 2, 2012
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