Letters Response

Group B Strep Support replies to Margaret McCartney

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3381 (Published 15 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3381
  1. Philip Steer, medical advisory panel1,
  2. Alison Bedford Russell, medical advisory panel1,
  3. A Christine McCartney, medical advisory panel1,
  4. Philippa Cox, medical advisory panel1,
  5. Jane Plumb, chief executive1
  1. 1Group B Strep Support, PO Box 203, Haywards Heath RH16 1GF, UK
  1. jplumb{at}gbss.org.uk

We of Group B Strep Support (GBSS) were disappointed that Margaret McCartney reiterated some myths about screening for group B streptococcus during pregnancy.1 We challenge four of her statements.

(1) “The risks of antibiotic use include anaphylaxis, which is thought to be fatal in one in 10 000 women treated.”

This is an unreferenced statement from the UK National Screening Committee’s 2008 review of antenatal screening for streptococcus B. Fatal anaphylaxis is extremely rare. Law et al reported that 1.8 million women in the US were given benzylpenicillin (or ampicillin) between 1997 and 2001 with no deaths from anaphylaxis reported.2 Their review of UK data showed no adverse drug reactions attributable to benzylpenicillin in a population of 630 000 over six months. They conclude that the risk of death is negligible.

(2) “Broad spectrum antibiotics lead to resistant organisms . . . The potential for long-term persistence of early-colonising bacteria suggests that much more thought should …

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