Treating Infant Lung Disease

Azithromycin treats preterm babies with ureaplasma bacteria

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Ureaplasma bacteria, a primitive infection not normally tested for unless women are seeking fertility treatments, can also be passed from mother to child.

Ureaplasma bacteria has essentially no symptoms in adults but may decrease a woman's fertility and also influence the chance of miscarriage and preterm delivery.

A recent study sought to treat ureaplasma bacteria in premature babies born with the infection in an effort to prevent the bacteria from developing into bronchopulmonary dysplasia(BPD). The study indicated some success when using azythromicyn in infected babies.

"If planning to conceive, get tested for ureaplasma. "

Dr. Hubert O. Ballard, the UK neonatologist leading the study, observes that there are very few current preventative therapies for BPD. Unless in a sophisticated fertility clinic, adults aren't tested for ureaplasma bacteria. The inflammation from ureaplasma bacteria can often lead to bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature babies.

This bacterium causes inflammation in the baby's lungs and can lead to meningitis, pneumonia or septicemia. Forty-five percent of babies born extremely premature are infected with ureaplasma.

In the study, babies infected with Ureaplasma developed BPD or died 73 percent of the time if they were treated with azithromycin. The group not receiving azithromycin developed BPD or died 94 percent of the time.

BPD is a chronic lung disorder characterized by inflammation and scar tissue in the lungs. It is quite common among premature infants, as their lungs are not fully developed before birth.

The Study

  • The study participants were a group of 220 infants admitted to the Kentucky's Neonatal ICU from 2004 to  2008
  • Babies had birth weight of less than 1,250 grams, were on intermittent mechanical ventilation for fewer than 12 hours, and were under 72 hours old
  • Each infant was randomized to receive azithromycin or a placebo for a total of six weeks
  • Infants testing positive for Ureaplasma were placed in a separate subgroup of the study
  • Improving sexual hygiene can prevent the spread of ureaplasma (condoms, dental dams, washing).
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 1, 2011
Last Updated:
May 26, 2011