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Potentially Deadly Infection Linked to Frequent Cow Exposure

A common bacteria found in many healthy adult females that can cause life-threatening infections when passed to newborns could be introduced to some women through frequent contact with cows, according to a research team led by a Michigan State University pediatrician.

The recently published findings that Group B streptococcus could be a zoonotic disease -- transmitted between different species -- may have significant public health implications, said Dele Davies, chairperson of MSU's Department of Pediatrics and Human Development.

GBS, first recognized as a bacterium that leads to infections in the breasts of cows, is now found in up to 36 percent of pregnant women in their digestive or genital tracts. When passed to newborns during pregnancy, the infection can be severe -- leading to death -- though not all infants become sick.

While GBS affects only 1 in every 2,000 babies, and there are prenatal tests to identify it, Davies said understanding how women are infected could greatly reduce transmission rates.

Efforts have been made to understand the risk factors that lead to transmission from mothers to babies, but it hasn't been established how mothers originally acquire it, Davies said.
 
 

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