Research Project: The role of HIV and the vaginal microbiome in triggering preterm birth and shaping the infant microbiome

Year(s): 2016-2018

Dr. Elwood attended secondary school in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and then went on to earn a Bachelor and Master of Science at the University of Western Ontario before returning to BC where she completed her Medical Doctorate at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on HIV in pregnancy.

“I am hoping to work in the field of reproductive infectious disease, caring for HIV-positive women by meeting their reproductive health needs and driving research to improve their care.”

Her CTN postdoctoral study aims to evaluate the causes of the increased rate of preterm births in women living with HIV compared with the general population.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality in the world. Despite antiretroviral therapies being very effective at decreasing the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, HIV-positive women are still 1.5 to 2.5 times more at risk of preterm birth. The preterm birth rate for HIV-positive women in BC is 16-19%, more than twice the Canadian average for HIV-negative women.

The aim of Dr. Elwood’s research is to evaluate the vaginal microbiome in HIV-positive women who deliver both at term and preterm, in an effort to better understand possible causation. Dr. Elwood will also evaluate the impact of HIV status in shaping the intestinal microbiome of infants born to HIV-positive women both term and pre-term. This is a subgroup analysis of the second objective of CTN 291 – Preterm birth in HIV-positive pregnancies. Her supervisor will be Dr. Deborah Money in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of British Columbia.