Universal screening versus risk-based protocols for antibiotic prophylaxis during childbirth to prevent early-onset Group B streptococcal disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis

G.F. Hasperhoven, S. Al-Nasiry, V. Bekker, E. Villamor, B.W.W. Kramer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background Early-onset group B streptococcal (EOGBS) disease (including sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia) causes significant morbidity and mortality in newborn infants worldwide. Antibiotic prophylaxis can prevent vertical streptococcal transmission, yet no uniform criteria exist to identify eligible women for prophylaxis. Some guidelines recommend universal GBS screening to pregnant women in their third trimester (screening-based protocol), whereas others employ risk-based protocols.Objectives To compare the effectiveness of screening-based versus risk-based protocols in preventing EOGBS disease.Search strategy Key words for the database searches included GBS, Streptococcus agalactiae, pregnancy, screening, culture-based, risk-based.Selection criteria Studies were included if they investigated EOGBS disease incidence in newborn infants and compared screening or risk-based protocols with each other or with controls.Data collection and analysis Risk ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were determined using Mantel-Haenszel analyses with random effects.Main results Seventeen eligible studies were included. In this meta-analysis, screening was associated with a reduced risk for EOGBS disease compared either with risk-based protocols (ten studies, RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.32-0.56) or with no policy (four studies, RR 0.31, 95% CI 0.11-0.84). Meta-analysis could not demonstrate a significant effect of risk-based protocols versus no policy (seven studies, RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.61-1.20). In studies reporting on the use of antibiotics, screening was not associated with higher antibiotic administration rates (31 versus 29%).Conclusions Screening-based protocols were associated with lower incidences of EOGBS disease compared with risk-based protocols, while not clearly overexposing women to antibiotics. This information is of relevance for future policymaking.Tweetable abstract Meta-analysis: general screening is associated with lower rates of early-onset group B strep. neonatal sepsis compared with risk-based protocols.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-691
Number of pages12
JournalBjog-an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • accuracy
  • antibiotic prophylaxis
  • culture
  • early-onset neonatal sepsis
  • group b streptococcus
  • guidelines
  • infant
  • infections
  • maternal colonization
  • meta-analysis
  • newborn infant
  • pregnant-women
  • risk-based
  • screening
  • sepsis
  • strategies
  • streptococcal infections
  • streptococcus agalactiae
  • systematic review
  • vertical transmission
  • worldwide
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis
  • Streptococcus agalactiae
  • group B streptococcus

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