Melissa and Andy Barclay call for greater testing of deadly Group B Strep during pregnancy

Date published: 30 March 2017

Melissa and Andy Barclay are calling for greater testing of Group B Streptococcus (GBS), a deadly infection which can be identified if tested for.

The Barclays, from Rochdale, lost their first-born child, Madison, to the infection in 2012 when she was just two-and-a-half days old.

Mother Mel said: “It's absolutely heartbreaking and the fact that the test would cost the NHS £11 in comparison to losing a child, or the millions it costs to look after a child post-GBS is ludicrous.

“We should never have lost Madison: I should have been informed and given the option to test.”

In the UK, there are no current routine screening programmes available, despite it being offered in many developed countries across the globe including Australia, Canada, Italy, Norway and the USA.

The Enriched Culture Medium test (ECM) is a non-invasive swab offered between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is recognised by Public Health England as the international ‘gold standard’ for detecting GBS, yet is rarely offered within NHS, despite it costing just £11.

Within the NHS, a much less sensitive method is often used instead that can miss up to half of carriers. The ECM test is availably privately from £35.

When Melissa was 20-weeks pregnant with Madison, she asked her midwife about Group B Streptococcus, as she had heard about it when a family member had a baby a few years earlier, but was told ‘it was nothing to worry about.’

She said: “I’m a very trusting person so I left it at that. It was never fully explained, which is why I asked about it when I fell pregnant. My pregnancy was textbook until 32 weeks when my blood pressure started to rise and I had increased monitoring.”

On her due date, Melissa queried her waters breaking, but had no recurrence. Two days later she was admitted to hospital was told she would be induced due to her blood pressure. She failed to progress so the decision was taken to rupture her membranes.

Mel continued: “I was told I had no waters. Madison was born just over 12 hours later, weighing 5lb 13oz and was perfect in every way.

“When the midwife finished all her observations, she said Madison had a low temperature and that I should keep a hat on her and keep her in a blanket.”

However, just 24 hours later, Madison was taken from her mother as her chest was moving rapidly and ‘it could be a number of things’. Mel and Andy were told doctors thought Madison had an infection and started her on a course of antibiotics.

Within hours of moving to neonatal, Madison had deteriorated dramatically and was placed on life support. Her parents were told to prepare themselves as Madison may not survive the hospital transfer from Lancaster to Preston.

Madison survived the journey, and Mel says staff worked hard to try make her daughter comfortable and respond to treatment.

“We were advised to try and rest. At 6am, we were woken by her consultant who said we needed to spend time with Madison as she wasn’t responding to the treatment. At 10am, we were told it was GBS and there was nothing more they could do for her,” Mel said.

Melissa and Andy made the heart-wrenching decision to switch off Madison’s life support at 4.40pm on Tuesday 11 December. Madison was just two-and-a-half days old.

Group B Strep is a normal bacterium carried by up to a third of adults and up to a quarter of women. It usually poses no symptoms or side-effects.

According to the Group B Strep Support charity, approximately one in every 1,000 babies born in the UK develops the infection with two babies a day developing it. One baby dies from the infection each week, and one more baby survives with long-term disabilities- physical, mental or both.

It can be passed from mother to baby during labour and is harmless for most babies. For a small number, it can lead to blood poisoning, pneumonia and meningitis.

GBS is recognised to cause preterm delivery, maternal infections, stillbirths and late miscarriages; and preterm babies are known to be at particular risk of GBS infection as their immune systems are not as well developed.

Following their daughter’s death, the Barclays began researching the infection and found out about the test that can be done between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy.

Mel and Andy went on to have two more children, Xavier and Jaxon, who were both given intra-venous antibiotics for 72 hours and 36 hours, respectively, after they were born.

She was swabbed when she pregnant with Xavier and, in accordance with UK guidelines, was supposed to receive antibiotics when she was in labour. However, she laboured so quickly that she was unable to receive them. Mel did receive antibiotics during labour with Jaxon.

Mel added: “A petition has recently been submitted to the Department of Health requesting for routine screening in this country. The petition was signed by over a quarter of a million people, but the government and the minister of health have yet again rejected the request.”

To sign the petition, visit:

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