Tag: low birthweight

Azithromycin Protects Pregnancies in Countries with Malaria

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

A review has found that the common antibiotic azithromycin taken during pregnancy reduces low birth weight and premature births in countries where malaria is endemic.

The systematic review of 14 studies in African and Asia, published in The Lancet EClinicalMedicine, found that azithromycin, reduced low birth weight and prematurity but didn’t lower infant deaths, infections and hospital admissions.

Azithromycin, an inexpensive antibiotic widely used to treat chest and ear infections, has been specifically used in the past in pregnancy to treat STIs and, alongside other antimalarial drugs, to prevent adverse consequences of malaria on maternal and foetal outcomes and caesarean wound infections.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) researcher Dr Maeve Hume-Nixon said it was not clear whether azithromycin would improve perinatal and neonatal outcomes in non-malaria endemic settings, and the potential harm on stillbirth rates needed further investigation.

Dr Hume-Nixon said these findings emphasised the importance of similar MCRI-led research currently being done in Fiji.

“This review found that there was uncertainty about the potential benefits of this intervention on neonatal deaths, admissions and infections, and potential harmful effects on stillbirth despite biological reasons why this intervention may have benefits for these outcomes,” she said.

“Therefore, results from studies like ours underway in Fiji will help to better understand the effect of this intervention on these outcomes.”

The Bulabula MaPei study is a randomised controlled clinical trial testing if azithromycin given to women in labour, prevents maternal and infant infections.

Globally, infections account for 21% of 2.4 million neonatal deaths per year and 52% of all under-five deaths, disproportionately occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

About five million cases of pregnancy-related infections occur in mothers each year as well, resulting in 75 000 maternal deaths.

MCRI Professor Fiona Russell said the large clinical trials in Africa and Asia, along with the MCRI-led trial in Fiji, were likely to inform global policy related to maternal child health and hopefully benefit infants and mothers around the world.

“Administration of azithromycin during labour may be a cheap and simple intervention that could be used to improve neonatal death rates in low and middle-income countries, alongside strengthening of maternal child health services,” she said. “This study, together with other large clinical trials, will add to evidence for the consideration of new international maternal and child health guidelines.”

Source: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute