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New test could keep babies from contracting deadly infections

Gainesville, Fla. -- The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a new test studied at the University of Florida that could lead to better screening for the most common cause of infection in newborn babies.

Passed from mother to child during birth, group B streptococcus can cause sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis, neurological damage and, in a small percentage of newborns, even death.

Although all women are tested for group B streptococcus during pregnancy, current screening methods can leave some babies at risk for contracting an infection from the bacterium. But the new test, which UF researchers studied for several months as part of a clinical trial, allows health-care workers to quickly screen mothers during labor, improving the odds that babies will receive preventive care so they will not be infected during delivery.

"Without any intervention, (group B strep) is the most common cause of early-onset infection in newborns," said Rodney Edwards, M.D., a UF assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the College of Medicine who led the clinical trial at UF, one of six sites to study the test. "It can cause sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia. The likelihood of dying if you are a newborn is 5 percent. (With meningitis) even if the baby makes it through the infection there is a chance of cerebral palsy and cognitive delay."

The new group B strep test, developed by the California-based company Cepheid, allows doctors to screen for the bacterium during labor. Currently, women are screened for the organism a few weeks before birth because it takes a few days to receive results from the lab. But because some women do not contract the organism until after they are tested, some babies are still at risk for infection.

The first clinical molecular diagnostic test the FDA has approved, the technology can be adapted to detect other infections such as avian flu and even the deadly bug methicillin-resistant Staphy
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Contact: April Frawley Birdwell
afrawley@vpha.health.ufl.edu
352-273-5817
University of Florida
26-Jul-2006


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