Previous studies show that three types of Group B Streptococcus, or GBS, cause the most disease among babies, but a lesser-known form, referred to as serotype IV, has become more prevalent in Minnesota.
GBS can be passed to a baby at birth. An infant who ingests or inhales the bacteria is at risk of developing a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia, meningitis or blood infection, according to MPR.
Physicians routinely screen pregnant women for GBS toward the end of their pregnancies. Mothers who test positive are given antibiotics during labor and delivery to prevent transmission to their infants.
However, routine screening doesn't test for a specific type of GBS. Serotype IV has been proven to be resistant to the antibiotic clindamycin, one of the drugs used when pregnant women are allergic to penicillin.
In 2010, GBS linked to serotype IV accounted for 16 percent of diseases in infants up to six days old, which is almost as many that occurred in the last 10 years combined.
Dr. Patricia Ferrieri, lead author of the study and University of Minnesota Medical School physician and researcher, tells MPR physicians should be extra vigilant in monitoring newborns and says mothers should know their status, positive or negative, going into labor.