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OBJECTIVE: To examine published evidence regarding duration of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis administered to pregnant women colonized with group B Streptococcus (GBS) to reduce infant colonization with GBS and to prevent early-onset GBS sepsis.

DATA SOURCES: A search was conducted in The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2006), MEDLINE (1966 to January 2006), EMBASE (1980 to January 2006), CINAHL (1982 to January 2006), and in protocols and guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION: All randomized controlled trials and observational studies in which duration of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis is reported relative to subsequent neonatal GBS colonization or sepsis were considered. Case series and study designs using historical cohorts or controls for comparison were excluded.

TABULATION, INTEGRATION, AND RESULTS: Three prospective cohort studies and one case-control study met inclusion criteria. Heterogeneity of study design and assembly of cohorts precluded meta-analysis. A systematic review of the individual studies was performed. All studies were rated as fair or poor validity with regard to their ability to evaluate duration of intrapartum prophylaxis and transmission of GBS to the newborn. All 4 studies were largely composed of women with existing risk factors for GBS disease of the newborn. One study supported more than 1 hour of prophylaxis, two studies supported more than 2 hours of prophylaxis, and one was inconclusive.

CONCLUSION: Despite unequivocal clinical guidelines recommending at least 4 hours of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, there are no well-designed studies examining duration of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis for prevention of early-onset GBS disease of the newborn. We recommend continuing to initiate intrapartum prophylaxis according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines; however, the transmission of GBS to neonates exposed to less than 4 hours of intrapartum prophylaxis and their subsequent management require further study.

(C) 2006 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.