Infant mortality is on the decline in one African nation thanks to a partnership between a Livingston County microbiologist and a Nigerian doctor.

Nigeria has one of the highest mortality rates in pregnant mothers and their babies. As an expert in deadly pathogens and genotyping, Shannon Manning of Oceola Township was contacted by Dr. Nubwa Medugu for help in analyzing samples she collected in hopes of reversing this trend in her home country. Manning is a Professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University and says that one of the biggest dangers pregnant women in Nigeria face is Group B Streptococcus, or GBS. GBS is a bacterium that can cause sepsis or meningitis is newborn babies. It typically colonizes the mother, who might not know she is carrying it because it part of her normal microbiome. During pregnancy, the pathogen can make its way up the placenta, contribute to membrane weakening, and cause early birth, still birth, or neonatal infection.

Manning said that in the 1970s GBS was a serious concern in the United States. Policy changes that helped make it easier for women to be tested, and antibiotics to help those that tested positive, have made birthing more safe for the mother and child. Manning said one of the biggest issues is that proper medical assistance and the antibiotics are hard to come by in Nigeria. Medugu’s study showed that mothers carrying GBS were 8 times more likely to deliver a baby with complications from it in Nigeria as opposed to the United States. As result of this research, Medugu and her peers have begun to routinely check for GBS infections back home. A copy of Manning and Medugu’s study is published in the current issue of Clinical Microbiology and Infection. (MK/JK)