This is suggested in a study in the journal PLoS One. A team of researchers from Michigan State University published finding that Group B streptococcus may be a zoonotic disease, transmitted from cows to people.

Group B streptococcus, which can cause infections in the breasts of cows, is found in nearly 40 percent of pregnant women in the GI and genital tract. So is there any relationship between contact with cows and women?

The researchers performed a cross-sectional cohort study was done on 68 families and their cattle. They collected and compared stool samples from the people and cows. It showed that increased exposure with the cows was significantly related with human infection with Group B streptococcus. In fact, some people in the study had the same strain of Group B strep as their cows.

The study suggests that there is some association between increased exposure to cows and colonization in women. Of course more studies are required.

Group B strep bacteria colonized in the vagina or gut of a pregnant woman can be a threat to the newborn during delivery. One in every 2000 babies in the United States get infected with the bacteria.

Many of the cases of Group B strep disease in newborns happen within the first week, also known as “early onset disease”. The result can be neonatal sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis. Premature babies are at greater risk.

“Late onset disease” is seen in babies can be seen weeks to months after birth. They may get infected from a carrier mother or many times the source of the infection is unknown.

The symptoms of Group B strep disease in the newborn appear like many other illnesses; fever, irritability, lethargy and feeding difficulties.

Pregnant woman today are tested for Group B strep and are given intravenous antibiotics (penicillin) during labor. The baby will be observed to see if additional treatment is necessary. However, if the antibiotic is given too early, the bacteria can come back and colonize the area.