$2.15M boost for research to improve perinatal health in the Pacific

News | Published on 20 May 2022

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded $2.15 million in funding to a Kirby Institute project to decrease adverse perinatal outcomes and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in the Pacific region as part of the NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant scheme.  

The trial, which will be conducted in partnership with in-country colleagues and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, will deliver treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, STIs which are curable but can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes including stillbirth, early neonatal death, low birth weight and preterm birth. Treatment with the oral antibiotic azithromycin will be delivered by mass drug administration, which involves administering medication to a defined population for specific infections that are endemic to that group.  

“Mass drug administration is proven to be a highly effective method of controlling infection,” says Dr Lucia Romani, who is chief investigator on the project. “There is a very high prevalence of STIs, including among pregnant women, in the Pacific region, and screening can be expensive and difficult to access for many people in in resource-limited settings. STIs are easily treated, and the medication is safe, so by treating the whole community, we should be able to seriously reduce transmission and improve the health outcomes of women, their babies, and the broader community.” 

The trial builds on a decade of successful implementation of mass drug administration in the Pacific region for neglected tropical diseases, where Dr Romani has led trials to control scabies, impetigo and trachoma. “Mass drug administration is an effective and cost-efficient way to treat these curable conditions. No one should have to live with the adverse effects of treatable infection, and we welcome the support of the NHMRC to address this in our region,” she says.

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