HealthDay News — Administration of azithromycin during labor is associated with a reduction in maternal and neonatal clinical infections, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Claire Oluwalana, MD, from the Medical Research Council Unit in Banjul, the Gambia, and colleagues conducted a randomized trial involving 829 Gambian women in labor. Participants were given an oral dose of azithromycin or placebo and were followed for up to 8 weeks after delivery.

Eight infants died per arm during the follow-up period. There were no reports of maternal deaths or serious adverse events related to the intervention. 

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The researchers found that the azithromycin group had a significantly lower incidence of maternal infections (3.6% vs 9.2%; relative risk [RR] 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.22 to 0.71; P =.002), significantly lower prevalence of mastitis (1.4% vs 5.1%; RR 0.29; 95% CI, 0.12 to 0.70; P =.005), and fever (1.9% vs 5.8%; RR 0.33; 95% CI, 0.15 to 0.74; P =.006). 

In the azithromycin group, newborns had a lower overall prevalence of infections (18.1% vs 23.8%; RR 0.76; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.99; P =.052) and skin infections (3.1% vs 6.4%; RR 0.49; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.93; P =.34).

“Azithromycin given to women in labor decreases infections in both women and newborns during the puerperal period,” the authors write.

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Oluwalana C, Camara B, Bottomley C, et al. Azithromycin in labor lowers clinical infections in mothers and newborns: a double-blind trial. Pediatrics. 2017;139. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2281