A CAMPAIGNING mum whose daughter nearly died from a virus at birth has welcomed a breakthrough in testing for it.
Su Newton's little girl Emily was born with Strep B and has since called for the NHS to make testing for it for routinely available.
Now the charity she is an ambassador for has announced a partnership with a health firm to sell testing kits at pharmacies.
This early diagnosis would mean pregnant woman could be administered IV penicillin in labour which could massively reduce the risk of their babies having Strep B - the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies.
Su, of Worsdell Way in Colchester, said: "If this product is to be made available in pharmacies then this is a great advance in raising awareness of GBS to pregnant women.
"The test is quick and easy to conduct and involves simply collecting two swab samples.
"Currently, very little, if any, information is provided by antenatal healthcare professionals about Group B Strep (GBS) so most women are unaware of the potential risks and wouldn't know to ask for a test."
Su said the Group B Strep Support charity's website has details of where to obtain home testing kits but this relies on women already being aware of group B Strep.
She added: "If more women are informed and can establish whether or not they carry the bacteria, then they can make an informed decision about the potential risks and take appropriate steps to protect their babies.
"I wish I'd had the right information when I was pregnant as I would, without doubt, have been happy to spend £40 to protect my baby and prevent her from being exposed to GBS which resulted in her contracting overwhelming sepsis."
Emily is now a healthy seven-year-old.
Su , 46, is an ambassador group B Strep Support, which has announced its partnership with HiberGene Diagnostics
HiberGene Diagnostics’ test for GBS is called Strepelle and is recognised in Public Health England’s UK Standard.
Jane Plumb MBE, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, said: “Pregnant women are rarely offered testing in the NHS, and if they are, a ‘gold-standard’ test like Strepelle is seldom available. With their help, and their test, we are confident that more babies will be protected from preventable group B Strep infection.”
Brendan Farrell, Chairman and CEO of HiberGene Diagnostics, added: “Commercial tests like Strepelle enable women to find out whether they carry group B Strep in pregnancy so they can make informed choices about what is best for them and their baby. Identifying pregnant women likely to be carrying group B Strep and giving them IV penicillin during labour can reduce group B Strep infection in newborn babies by over 80 per cent."
Strepelle costs £39.99 and is available from selected independent pharmacies and online from www.strepelle.com.
Testing for Group B Strep is not routinely available through the NHS, unlike countries such as the USA, France, Germany, Poland and many others.
One in four pregnant women is unknowingly carrying group B Strep bacteria, which causes meningitis, sepsis or pneumonia in more than 500 newborn babies a year.
On average, one newborn baby a week dies from group B Strep infection.