Infection with group B streptococcus (GBS) results in 12,000 to 15,000 cases of neonatal sepsis annually in the United States. GBS is transmitted vertically in up to 70% of infants born to colonized women. Early-onset GBS disease (septicemia, pneumonia, or meningitis occurring within 7 days of life) has a mortality rate of up to 50%, with permanent neurologic sequelae occurring in 15 to 50% of infants surviving meningeal infection. Because of the fulminant nature of neonatal infection, it would be useful to have a rapid assay for determining the GBS status of laboring women. This study illustrated how a commercially available DNA probe-based test was modified to achieve this goal. Modifications included the use of mixed cultures rather than pure isolates for detecting GBS, along with a shorter culture enrichment time and a sample concentration step. To this end, vaginal and rectal swabs from 402 pregnant women during their third trimester were cocultured and tested for GBS rRNA. The 8-h enrichment protocol resulted in an assay with a sensitivity of 95% and specificity of 98%, while the 3-h enrichment protocol revealed a sensitivity of 73% and specificity of 99%. In summary, GBS was detected in the majority of colonized women in less than 4 h. This study illustrated the usefulness of the approach in identifying the most heavily colonized women, who are at the highest risk of transmitting GBS to their neonates. The modified test would have a significant impact on both the medical management and antibiotic therapy for these women and their newborns
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