According to a review by US researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine, pregnancy-related infections are a major cause of maternal death in low-and-middle income countries.
It can also be fatal to unborn and newborn babies, and are mostly caused by four types of conditions that are treatable and preventable.
The authors, led by Michael Gravett and a team of investigators from the University of Washington in Seattle, PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), and GAPPS (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, Seattle Children's) reviewed all published studies with information about maternal infections, paying particular attention to studies from Africa and Asia (where most80%of global maternal deaths occur), in order to identify appropriate strategies for detecting infections and providing effective interventions. They found that most life-threatening pregnancy-related infections are caused by infections of the genital tract, urinary tract, soft tissues, and infections related to abortion.
The authors say: "Our review identified four clinical syndromes, and microbes associated with them, that appear to be responsible for most cases of life-threatening pregnancy related infections in low-and-middle-income countries."
They continue: "Each of these occurs at a distinct time during pregnancy, providing opportunities for screening and prevention."
The authors add: "There is a great need for comprehensive studies in low-and-middle-income countries exploring the epidemiology, risk factors, and microbiology of life-threatening maternal infections."
They conclude: "Without such data, women will continue to be treated inappropriately and experience potentially preventable mortality and morbidity."