Several African countries including Malawi have met their Millennium Development Goals to reduce childhood deaths by two-thirds. However, infant deaths in the first three months of life have proved more difficult to reduce. Severe infection including meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) causes by a bacteria called Group B Streptococcus (GBS) remains an important cause of this death.
GBS vaccines given to mothers when pregnant to prevent infection in the baby have been under development for many years and are now undergoing trial in Africa. A trial conducted in Malawi and South Africa to assess the vaccine in healthy and HIV infected pregnant women has recently been reported in Lancet Infectious Diseases. This is the first study to investigate the GBS vaccine in pregnant women infected with HIV and shows that the vaccine both induces immunity and has a good safety profile.