Clinical trials are underway to test a new treatment for pregnant women, which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have said.

A large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted–reproductive tract infections (STIs – RTIs), according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Each year an estimated 25 million women in sub-Saharan Africa  are at high risk of malaria infection during pregnancy, the study said. Malarial infection heightens the risk of miscarriage, still births, or premature birth and death.

There are 880,000 stillbirths and 1.2 million newborn deaths each year in sub-Saharan Africa, many of which are linked to maternal infections in general , according to the study.

Almost four of every 10 women being treated in a health clinic in the region are infected with malaria, it said. Many women are also infected with such STIs and RTIs as syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomononiasis and bacterial vaginosis, according to the report.