Background: Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis may be at increased risk for preterm delivery. We investigated whether treatment with metronidazole and erythromycin during the second trimester would lower the incidence of delivery before 37 weeks' gestation.
Methods: In 624 pregnant women at risk for delivering prematurely, vaginal and cervical cultures and other laboratory tests for bacterial vaginosis were performed at a mean of 22.9 weeks' gestation. We then performed a 2:1 double-blind randomization to treatment with metronidazole and erythromycin (433 women) or placebo (191 women). After treatment, the vaginal and cervical tests were repeated and a second course of treatment was given to women who had bacterial vaginosis at that time (a mean of 27.6 weeks' gestation).
Results: A total of 178 women (29 percent) delivered infants at less than 37 weeks' gestation. Eight women were lost to follow-up. In the remaining population, 110 of the 426 women assigned to metronidazole and erythromycin (26 percent) delivered prematurely, as compared with 68 of the 190 assigned to placebo (36 percent, P = 0.01). However, the association between the study treatment and lower rates of prematurity was observed only among the 258 women who had bacterial vaginosis (rate of preterm delivery, 31 percent with treatment vs. 49 percent with placebo; P = 0.006). Of the 358 women who did not have bacterial vaginosis when initially examined, 22 percent of those assigned to metronidazole and erythromycin and 25 percent of those assigned to placebo delivered prematurely (P = 0.55). The lower rate of preterm delivery among the women with bacterial vaginosis who were assigned to the study treatment was observed both in women at risk because of previous preterm delivery (preterm delivery in the treatment group, 39 percent; and in the placebo group, 57 percent; P = 0.02) and in women who weighed less than 50 kg before pregnancy (preterm delivery in the treatment group, 14 percent; and in the placebo group, 33 percent; P = 0.04).
Conclusions: Treatment with metronidazole and erythromycin reduced rates of premature delivery in women with bacterial vaginosis and an increased risk for preterm delivery.