Does HIV infection boost carriage of Group B streptococcus bacteria in pregnant women and increase the risk of infection in new born babies?
HIV infection and GBS
Dr George Kafulafula, Dr Katherine Gray, Dr Neil French
- Start Date:
01 January 2008
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Research Laboratories, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi
Group B streptococci (GBS) are an important bacterial cause of death in newborn babies. If a mother has GBS in her vagina or bowel then there is a risk her baby will acquire the bacteria and develop meningitis, infection of the blood (septicaemia) or pneumonia at birth.
In Malawi, GBS are an important cause of death in newborn babies with one third of all infected babies dying. This may be a relatively recent development and it is possible that the rise in importance of GBS in this region is related to the HIV epidemic in southern Africa. Women with HIV infection are known to be at increased risk of carriage and infection with bacteria similar to GBS so it is possible that they carry more GBS than HIV-negative women. In this project, doctors plan to assess the presence of these bacteria in the bowel and vagina of 400 HIV-positive women and 1600 HIV-negative women to measure whether carriage is increased by HIV-infection. The results will help explain the emergence of GBS infection and have implications for prevention of meningitis and septicaemia due to GBS in newborn babies. Antibiotics given during labour may be used to decrease the risk of disease and it may be appropriate to give these to HIV-positive women. In addition, vaccines for GBS are in development, but careful assessment of these vaccines in HIV-positive women will be necessary.