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Treating Prenatal Maternal Infections Could Improve Birth Outcomes, Study Suggests

Clinical trials are underway to test an azithromycin-based combination treatment for pregnant women, “which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who published a report on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that “[a] large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted/reproductive tract infections (STIs/RTIs),” AlertNet reports (Mollins, 5/15). “The researchers looked at 171 studies from sub-Saharan Africa over a 20-year period, which showed whether women attending antenatal clinics were infected with malaria, or with a range of sexually transmitted and reproductive tract infections — syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and bacterial and parasitic infections of the vagina,” IRIN writes, adding, “If left untreated, these can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birthweight babies” (5/16).

According to a JAMA press release, the study states, “Sexually transmitted infections and reproductive tract infections and malaria are associated with adverse birth outcomes, but both may be mitigated with preventive or presumptive treatment or by repeated screening and treatment throughout the antenatal period. The extent to which either approach may be beneficial depends on the underlying prevalence of STIs/RTIs and malaria in pregnancy.” The researchers called for additional studies to be conducted to better determine the prevalence of malaria and STIs/RTIs among pregnant women and whether preventive or presumptive therapies may improve birth outcomes, the press release notes (5/14).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.