Meningitis and Group B Streptococci

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Topic Overview

Some people carry group B streptococcus bacteria in their body but don't get sick. Without knowing it, a woman who has group B streptococci in her birth canal or in her colon can pass the bacteria to her baby when she is giving birth. This can cause meningitis in the baby.

Meningitis caused by these bacteria also occurs in adults older than 60, especially those with long-term conditions such as diabetes, cancer, alcohol dependence, and liver or kidney failure. Group B streptococci cause meningitis in about 15% of the people who get bacterial meningitis in the United States every year.footnote 1

New guidelines for prevention of group B streptococci have made the disease less common. The guidelines include:footnote 2

  • Screening all pregnant women at 35 to 37 weeks.
  • Giving antibiotics during labor to women who have the bacteria.



  1. Roos KL, Tyler KL (2012). Meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, and empyema. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3410–3434. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Verani JR, et al. (2010). Prevention of perinatal group B streptococcal disease: Revised guidelines from CDC, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR-10): 1–36. Also available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease

Current as ofMay 22, 2015