LONDON, December 3 /PRNewswire/ --

- Group B Strep Awareness Week - Monday 3rd - Sunday 9th December 2007

- With Photo

GMTV presenter and popular former contestant of Strictly Come Dancing Kate Garraway is supporting Group B Strep Awareness Week. Up to three out of 10 pregnant women carry the group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacterium. Most are unaware of this fact and know nothing about GBS, yet it is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in new-born babies in the UK, affecting 700 babies each year. The charity Group B Strep Support says that if expectant mothers were routinely tested for GBS, doctors could prevent over 80% of GBS infections. New research has shown that routine testing for GBS could save the Government GBP37 million a year.

GBS infection causes meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia. Every year in the UK it kills 75 babies and leaves 40 with serious long-term mental or physical problems. GBS infection can usually be prevented by giving antibiotics during labour to women whose babies are most at risk of developing infection.

Kate Garraway says:

"I was tested for GBS when I was expecting my daughter Darcey and would definitely be tested again in any future pregnancies. It was by chance that I knew about GBS - tragically someone I know lost a baby to a GBS infection."

GBS carriage has no symptoms and it can come and go. A swab test at 35-37 weeks gestation will best predict if a woman will be carrying GBS at labour. But a reliable test to detect GBS colonisation is not widely available on the NHS. It is available privately and costs around GBP32. Group B Strep Support is campaigning for every pregnant woman in the UK to be offered a reliable test for GBS on the NHS. According to new medical research, testing all pregnant women plus treating those found to be at higher risk, would not only save lives but would save the Government GBP37 million a year. You can support Group B Strep Support's campaign by signing a petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/groupbstrep.

Kate Garraway adds:

"It's a desperate situation that babies are dying needlessly. GBS infection is usually preventable, so routine testing on the NHS would save a lot of heartache and tragedy. I've signed the petition because I think every pregnant woman should be offered a test for GBS - every mother has the right to protect her baby."

Jane Plumb, who founded Group B Strep Support after losing her second son, Theo, to GBS infection in 1996 said:

"Routine testing for GBS is in everyone's interests - it would save babies' lives and research has shown that it would cut Government spending. The test is a standard part of antenatal care in many countries, including Canada, Australia, France, Italy and the USA - why aren't we protecting babies in the UK in the same way? The British Government and the NHS are letting young families down."

As part of GBS Awareness Week, the private laboratories that provide reliable testing for GBS are offering GBP5 off the test. To claim your discount contact either Mullhaven Medical Laboratories, on +44-(0)1234-831115 or at info@mullhaven.co.uk, or The Doctors Laboratory, on +44-(0)207-307-7373 or at gbs@tdlpathology.com, and quote "awareness".

For more information about GBS, contact Group B Strep Support, tel: +44-(0)1444-416176 or go to http://www.gbss.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

1. Group B Strep Awareness Week runs from Monday 3rd - Sunday 9th December 2007. A press pack is available. It includes information about GBS and Group B Strep Support as well as case studies and quotes from notable supporters, including Rt Hon David Cameron, MP. If you would like a copy please contact Jane Plumb or Beryl Hobson, as above.

2. Dr Chris Steele, resident GP on ITV's This Morning, is Patron of Group B Strep Support. If you would like a photograph of Dr Steele or an interview, please contact Jane Plumb or Beryl Hobson, as above.

3. Two private medical laboratories provide reliable testing for GBS. Packs containing the necessary swabs can be obtained free, and a postal service for carrying out the test normally costs around GBP32. As part of GBS Awareness Week, both laboratories are offering GBP5 off the test. Please contact either Mullhaven Medical Laboratory on +44-(0)1234-831115 or at info@mullhaven.co.uk, or The Doctors Laboratory on +44-(0)207-307-7373 or at gbs@tdlpathology.com. Group B Strep Support can provide a voucher for your readers to cut out if you prefer. GBSS has no links nor receives any money from any laboratory.

4. Group B Strep Support (GBSS) is a UK charity set up to prevent GBS infection in newborn babies. Jane and Robert Plumb founded GBSS following the death of their second child, Theo, from GBS in 1996; they had a healthy child, Camilla, in August 1998.

5. The research referred to in this press release was published on 11 September 2007 in the British Medical Journal and can be found at http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.39325.681806.ADv2?maxtoshow=&HIT...

Prenatal Screening and treatment strategies to prevent group B streptococcal and other bacterial infections in early infancy: cost-effectiveness and expected value of information analyses. Authors: T Colbourn, C Assseburg, L Bojke, Z Philips, K Claxton, AE Ades & RE Gilbert

6. David Cameron MP has tabled three Early Day Motions asking the Government to facilitate full implementation of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' (RCOG) national GBS guidelines, and urging the Department of Health to ensure reliable testing for GBS carriage in pregnancy is urgently made available on the NHS.

Note to Editors:

A picture accompanying this release is available through the PA Photowire. It can be viewed at http://www.mediapoint.press.net or http://www.prnewswire.co.uk.

For more information about GBS, interviews with families who have experience of GBS infection in new-borns, or with the charity's medical advisors, contact: Jane Plumb, Chair, or Beryl Hobson, Chief Executive, Group B Strep Support: Tel: +44-(0)1444-416176, Mobile: +44-(0)7981-742989 (for your use only - please don't print this), e-mail: jplumb@gbss.org.uk, bhobson@gbss.org.uk, emmakstone@yahoo.co.uk