AFTER nearly losing his son Ollie to an early form of meningitis seven years ago, Saints' star James Roby has been made a patron of a charity which raises awareness of the devastating illness.

Group B Strep Support is delighted that James - a highly regarded rugby player and caring father - is lending his name to their cause.

As the Star has reported previously, James and his wife Natasha had a major scare when their first child Ollie, who is now seven, was diagnosed with meningitis caused by group B Strep.

Fortunately, a speedy diagnosis for Ollie, just two months old at the time, meant he received the life-saving treatment he needed.

Since their ordeal, James has been determined to do all he can to highlight the condition in newborn babies.

James said: "It is an honour to be invited to be a patron of Group B Strep Support. It is a charity that is close to our hearts as our son Ollie was very poorly with group B Strep infection as a baby.

"I was neither informed, nor had heard about group B Strep before Ollie became so ill.

"Luckily he made a full recovery, but not all babies do.

"Group B Strep infection is usually preventable. I want to make sure that other families do not have to go through the same trauma and will be raising awareness so they are aware and informed."

Group B Strep is the UK's most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and of meningitis in babies up to the age of three months, yet almost half of pregnant women have not heard about it.

At least 500 babies a year in the UK are infected with group B Strep. Of these, one in 10 sick babies die, one in 20 survivors suffer long-term problems and five in 10 survivors of group B Strep meningitis suffer long-term mental and physical problems including cerebral palsy.

Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support said: "The charity is thrilled to welcome James as a patron.

"He has raised much-needed funds for the charity, and he has brought the issue of group B Strep to a whole new audience.

"We know that he will continue to do all that he can to ensure families don't suffer the trauma his family suffered. He is a true star."