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Study Shows That Microbes Could Predict Preterm Births

Complications during preterm birth are the leading cause of death in the case of children under five all over the world.

Researchers from the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, CA have conducted which indicates that microbes could predict preterm births.  The paper was published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Every surface of our body is covered by microbes that are specific to every individual. It seems that the microbes present in the reproductive tract of pregnant women are different in the case of women who will experience preterm births so they could be a key element in identifying women who will give birth prematurely.

The study involved 49 pregnant women of whom 15 gave birth prematurely. The researchers took samples of microbes every week from the mothers’ reproductive tract, stool, teeth, gums and saliva. According to the findings women who had lower levels of Lactobacillus, a vaginal bacteria, were more likely to deliver their child preterm.  This vaginal bacteria produces amino acids and vitamin K and it is thus considered very healthy.

Women who had lower levels of Lactobacillus also presented increased levels of Ureaplasma and Gardnerella. This was observed in the case of nine women among whom four experienced premature births. The cause of early births has not been identified, but there are some assumptions such as infections, chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, multiple pregnancies and behavioral factors such as stress, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse.

The study also indicates that irrespective of the fact that the baby was born preterm or not the microbiome patterns of the women changed to a high-risk patter after the delivery. This could explain the risk of preterm births in the case of women with closely spaced pregnancies.

Dr. Daniel DiGiulio, the led author of the author remakred:

I think our data suggest that if the microbiome plays a role in premature birth, it may be something that is long in the making. It may be that an event in the first trimester or early second trimester, or even prior to pregnancy, starts the clock ticking.”

Researchers are optimistic that this study will help them screen pregnant women and predict who is more likely to deliver prematurely.  This is something very important taking into account the fact that complications during preterm birth are the leading cause of death in the case of children under five all over the world.



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