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High Tech Testing Can Save Babies' Lives

Meet the new technology helping to improve the diagnosis of Group B Streptococcus, the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns.

High Tech Testing Can Save Babies' Lives
February 2014

Sometimes new technologies are so obvious you can't miss them: Smart phones and automatic flush toilets are hard not to notice. Other technologies tend to stay in the background, but that doesn't mean they aren't having profound effects on our lives. One such technology named illumigene® GBS is a molecular assay to detect Group B Streptococcus (GBS) colonization in women. GBS can be transmitted from healthy moms to their babies during birth. GBS doesn't harm the mothers, but it can kill a newborn within a few hours.

Currently the majority of laboratories in the U.S are using a traditional culture method. The patient sample that you send to the laboratory is placed in a growth medium, and then streaked on to a culture plate. The plate is then examined to see if any bacteria are present. The problem with this test is that it lacks sensitivity, studies have shown sensitivity to be as low as 42%.1 Also the procedure is multi-step, cumbersome and time-consuming, and depends on subjective evaluation by lab technicians.

A New Approach…

Now, however, there is a new and improved way to test for GBS. Advances in molecular technology have made it possible to place the sample in an enrichment broth for as little as 18 hours, then go directly to assay testing to check for presence of GBS, providing a more definitive answer than traditional methods, explains Michael Jozefczyk, MD, president of ClearPath Diagnostics in Syracuse, New York. Molecular testing of this sort has certainly not replaced conventional diagnostics, but it has made more accurate results possible for a variety of tests, particularly GBS. illumigene® GBS is both faster and more sensitive, giving doctors and hospitals more confidence in the results.

Childbirth is a natural part of life, and fortunately it usually goes well without a need for much high-tech intervention. But screening for GBS with illumigene®, even if done quietly and behind the scenes, can help mothers and doctors make sure that when babies arrive, they are free of the potentially deadly GBS bacterium.


1. Fabien Rallue, et al. Sensitivities of Antigen

Detection and PCR Assays Greatly Increased

Compared to That of the Standard Culture Method

for Screening for Group B Streptococcus Carriage

in Pregnant Women. Journal of Clinical Microbiology,

March 2006, p. 725-728.

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