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Executive Summary

ANTIBIOTICS FOR PREVENTION OF PREMATURE LABOR DUE TO BACTERIAL INFECTIONS will be the subject of a four-year, $6.8 mil. study coordinated by the Natl. Institute of Child Health & Human Development in collaboration with the Natl. Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. In an Aug. 10 press release announcing the study, HHS explained that women who deliver premature babies are more likely to have certain genitourinary bacterial infections. The study, expected to involve over 15,000 pregnant women, "will determine if these infections cause premature labor and if treatment with antibiotics can prevent early labor from starting," HHS said. Recent studies "indicate that an enzyme, phospholipase A, released in the amniotic membrane surrounding the fetus, may stimulate contractions," HHS noted. The enzyme is also released by the bacteria that cause genitourinary infections. Half of the women in the study will receive an antibiotic, and half a placebo "until the 38th week of pregnancy or delivery, whichever occurs first," HHS said. The research could produce the "first effective method of preventing premature births," according to NICHD Center for Research for Mothers & Children Director Sumner Yaffe. Although the infant mortality rate has declined, the premature birth rate has not decreased in the last 30 years, HHS stated. Clinical trials will be conducted at five university medical centers. The study's principal investigators are: David Eschenbach, University of Washington (Seattle); Ronald Gibbs, University of Texas Health Sciences Center (San Antonio); Stanley James, Columbia University; David Martin, Louisiana State University Medical Center (New Orleans); and Philip Rettig, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City).

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