Infections during pregnancy may have serious consequences for both mother and baby. Assessment of risk factors for infections informs planning of interventions and analysis of the impact of infections on health outcomes.
To describe risk factors for helminths, malaria and HIV in pregnant Ugandan women before intervention in a trial of de-worming in pregnancy.
The trial recruited 2,507 pregnant women between April 2003 and November 2005. Participants were interviewed and blood and stool samples obtained; location of residence at enrolment was mapped. Demographic, socioeconomic, behavioral and other risk factors were modelled using logistic regression.
There was a high prevalence of helminth, malaria and HIV infection, as previously reported. All helminths and malaria parasitemia were more common in younger women, and education was protective against every infection. Place of birth and/or tribe affected all helminths in a pattern consistent with the geographical distribution of helminth infections in Uganda. Four different geohelminths (hookworm, Trichuris, Ascaris and Trichostrongylus) showed a downwards trend in prevalence during the enrolment period. There was a negative association between hookworm and HIV, and between hookworm and low CD4 count among HIV-positive women. Locally, high prevalence of schistosomiasis and HIV occurred in lakeshore communities.
Interventions for helminths, malaria and HIV need to target young women both in and out of school. Antenatal interventions for malaria and HIV infection must continue to be promoted. Women originating from a high risk area for a helminth infection remain at high risk after migration to a lower-risk area, and vice versa, but overall, geohelminths seem to be becoming less common in this population. High risk populations, such as fishing communities, require directed effort against schistosomiasis and HIV infection.
Infections in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, maternal mortality, and low birth weight and have other long-term complications for mother and baby, although the full impact of many infections, particularly worm infections, is not yet fully understood. There is a high burden of infectious disease in many developing countries. In this analysis, we identified which factors put pregnant women in Entebbe, Uganda, at particular risk for worm infections, malaria, HIV, and, where possible, rarer infections including syphilis. The women in this study, and their children, will be followed up to determine the long-term effects of exposure of the fetus to these maternal infections on health during childhood. The findings of this baseline analysis will help in the interpretation of the long-term outcomes. The findings also highlight which groups are most at risk of each infection, and this may help in targeting interventions to prevent, treat, or mitigate the impact of infections in pregnancy.