A MOTHER who lost her newborn son to a deadly infection has welcomed a hospital programme which has drastically cut the number of babies developing the condition.

Jane Plumb, from Lindfield, set up the charity Group B Strep Support in 1996 following the death of her baby Theo, who contracted group B streptococcus (GBS).

The charity is campaigning for all women to be routinely tested for GBS during their pregnancy and has grown to be a national organisation.

GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and passed on by mothers.

The charity has said routine testing could save the lives of scores of babies a year and stop hundreds more from developing serious complications which can lead to brain damage and limb amputation.

Its work aims to raise awareness of the infection and ensure more women are screened so they can have the antibiotics they need.

Government officials have insisted there is no evidence to support widespread screening, even though GBS is carried by one in four women.

They say it should only be offered to at-risk women instead.

Northwick Park Hospital in London ran a screening programme on all pregnant women and this resulted in no cases of the bacteria spreading to infants among those who were tested and treated with antibiotics.

The only recorded cases over a 12 month period involved babies whose mother had not agreed to be tested.

Half of the women who tested positive for GBS would not have been classified as at risk so their babies would not have been protected.

Mrs Plumb, 56, said: “The team at Northwick Park Hospital are trailblazers in the prevention of life-threatening group B Strep infections in newborn babies.

“They have found no group B Strep infections in the babies born to mothers who were screened and the screening programme is being well received by expectant parents and their health professionals.

“This is an important step forward in looking at ways to reduce the number of avoidable group B Strep infections in newborn babies.”