Erythromycin is the standard antibiotic used for treatment of infection with Ureaplasma spp. during pregnancy; however, maternally administered erythromycin may be ineffective at eliminating intra-amniotic ureaplasma infections. We examined whether erythromycin would eradicate intra-amniotic ureaplasma infections in pregnant sheep. At Gestational Day (GD) 50 (term, GD 150), pregnant ewes received intra-amniotic injections of erythromycin-sensitive Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3 (n = 16) or 10B medium (n = 16). At GD 100, amniocentesis was performed; five fetal losses (ureaplasma group, n = 4; 10B group, n = 1) had occurred by this time. Remaining ewes were allocated into treatment subgroups: medium only (n = 7), medium and erythromycin (n = 8), ureaplasma only (Up; n = 6), or ureaplasma and erythromycin (Up/E; n = 6). Erythromycin was administered intramuscularly (500 mg) every 8 h for 4 days (GDs 100–104). Amniotic fluid samples were collected at GD 105. At GD 125, preterm fetuses were surgically delivered, and specimens were collected for culture and histology. Erythromycin was quantified in amniotic fluid by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Ureaplasmas were isolated from the amniotic fluid, chorioamnion, and fetal lung of animals from the Up and Up/E groups, however, the numbers of U. parvum recovered were not different between these groups. Inflammation in the chorioamnion, cord, and fetal lung was increased in ureaplasma-exposed animals compared to controls but was not different between the Up and Up/E groups. Erythromycin was detected in amniotic fluid samples, although concentrations were low (<10–76 ng/ml). This study demonstrates that maternally administered erythromycin does not eradicate chronic, intra-amniotic ureaplasma infections or improve fetal outcomes in an ovine model, potentially because of the poor placental passage of erythromycin.
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Vol. 83 • No. 4