Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a major contributor to neonatal sepsis worldwide. Late-onset group B Streptococcus disease (LOGBS) and its risk factors remain poorly understood. The isolation of GBS from breast milk has been described in cases of LOGBS. This potential association has raised concerns for mothers and clinicians regarding the safety of ongoing breastfeeding. In this study, we aimed to investigate whether exposure to breast milk is associated with increased risk of LOGBS.
A case-control study of LOGBS was conducted across 4 hospital networks in Victoria, Australia, including the 2 major tertiary pediatric centers in the state, to evaluate 11 years of data (2007–2017). Cases were captured initially from microbiology databases and recaptured with International Classification of Diseases discharge coding. Each case patient was matched with 4 controls to assess feeding status. Patients were matched for chronological age, gestation, discharge status, recruitment site, and calendar year.
We identified 92 cases of LOGBS: 73 cases on initial capture and 76 cases on the recapture analysis. Case patients were matched with 368 controls: 4 controls to each patient. Seventy-two patients were exposed to breast milk at the time of LOGBS (78.3%), compared with 274 controls (74.5%; odds ratio 1.2 [95% confidence interval 0.7–2.3]).
Breastfeeding was not associated with increased risk of LOGBS. Breast milk should not be tested for GBS during a first episode of LOGBS.