As a part of its portfolio, the NICHD supports and conducts research on four aspects of BV:
- Understanding and maximizing fertility. BV can potentially cause infertility. Ongoing research on infertility supported by the NICHD's Contraception & Reproductive Health (CRH) Branch provides valuable information on the health of women affected by BV.
- Ensuring healthful and safe contraception. A woman's risk of developing BV is increased by having unprotected sexual activity. The many research areas supported by the CRH Branch, including contraception, are important for obtaining a complete understanding of BV.
- Preventing preterm deliveries. The NICHD's Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network has played a leading role in studying BV in pregnant women, especially those who are asymptomatic. A major focus of its studies has been the actual effects of antibiotics, especially clindamycin and metronidazole, in preventing preterm births in women with BV. MFMU researchers also conducted a study of maternal markers that could predict the likelihood of preterm delivery in pregnant women with BV.
- Combating HIV/AIDs and its effects on children. BV can increase a woman's risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an infected partner. Mother-to-child transmission is the major way that children are infected with HIV/AIDS. If a woman becomes HIV positive during pregnancy, her infant is at risk of becoming infected with HIV. For this reason, it is important to understand and take steps to control BV in pregnant women to help protect their unborn fetuses not only from the effects of BV but also from acquiring HIV/AIDS. Recent data suggest that BV may increase the risk of transmission of HIV from a woman to her fetus. NICHD researchers have conducted and supported a wealth of research on HIV/AIDS for nearly 25 years, especially through the NICHD Pediatric, Adolescent & Maternal AIDS Branch (PAMA) Branch.
The PAMA Branch supports and conducts both domestic and international research into the epidemiology, natural history, pathogenesis, transmission, treatment, and prevention of HIV infection and its complications in infants, children, adolescents, pregnant women, mothers, women of childbearing age, and the family unit as a whole. These research areas are relevant to BV because BV increases a woman's likelihood of acquiring HIV/AIDS and passing HIV/AIDS on to a partner. In addition, because BV increases a woman's likelihood of acquiring HIV/AIDS, her fetus is at increased risk.