Women infected with the sexually transmitted disease, trichomoniasis, are more likely to give birth to low birth-weight babies, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control. Trichomoniasis is caused by infection with the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis.
In a study of pregnant women in the Republic of Congo, researchers compared 215 women infected with the human immunodeficiency virus to 206 women who were not HIV-positive.
The researchers wanted to find out if a woman's HIV status is also a risk factor for infection with the parasite, Trichomonas. In addition, they investigated what effects, if any, trichomoniasis would have on the pregnancy and its outcome.
They found that women who are HIV-positive are almost twice as likely to test positive for Trichomonas: 18 percent versus 10 percent for women who do not have HIV. In both groups of women, trichomoniasis was associated with low birth weight.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a parasitic infection that is fairly common in women, particularly during pregnancy or after vaginal surgery. Males can harbor the microorganism in their urethra and pass it back to their partners during sexual intercourse.
In women, this infection usually causes burning, redness, and itching with a profuse vaginal discharge that often has a foul odor. Occasionally, a woman may have no symptoms, even though she is infected. The standard treatment of a single two-gram dose of metronidazole is usually effective. However, in pregnant women the preferred method of treatment is 250 mg for seven days, as the two-gram dose is not recommended for pregnant women.
The researchers are calling for further study of the association between this common parasitic infection and low birth-weight babies. If additional studies confirm this finding, research will be necessary to ascertain the most effective timing for Trichomonas screening and treatment during pregnancy.
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