A new study found that there are several types of microbial communities or microbiota that may result in an increased risk of premature birth. The researchers from the Stanford University monitored the bacterial neighborhoods in the different parts of pregnant women's reproductive systems and found that those who underwent preterm labor had a distinct pattern of bacteria in their vagina compared to other pregnant women.
The microbiota of each individual is a vital aspect of the overall health and wellbeing, particularly in pregnant women and their babies. Microbes settle inside the different body parts or microbiomes as experts call it; these include the mouth, gut, vagina and skin. Microbes have a wide range of functions such as aiding digestion and boosting immunity, among many others. Although these are referred to as the "good bacteria," majority of these germs may contribute to a variety of hazardous health illnesses if they are placed under unfavorable conditions.
The researchers conducted the study by performing a case-control investigation involving 49 pregnant subjects, of which 15 had preterm delivery. They obtained 3,767 specimen samples from the participants' tooth, gum, saliva, distal gut and vagina prospectively, weekly during pregnancy and monthly after the delivery. The scientists then examined the bacterial taxonomic composition of these specimens to come up with the findings.
The results of the study, published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), show that the microbiota environment in each part of the body did not exhibit significant changes throughout the pregnancy. However, notable findings were observed in women who had preterm delivery. The vaginal microbiota showed alterations as confirmed by an analysis of samples obtained from nine supplementary cohort study subjects. A sudden change in the vaginal microbial environment was also noted during the delivery and persisted in a few women by up to one year. With this, the researchers suggest that prognosis of pregnancy may be determined by looking into the microbiota conditions during the early phase of the pregnancy.
"We may have a new hook, a new angle to pursue against preterm birth," says Dr. David Relman, study lead author and a Stanford microbiology specialist. There is a possibility that the microbiome can add to the occurrence of the rampant and devastating event of preterm labor and delivery.
Preterm births are attributed to a variety of different factors such as very young and very old age, twin pregnancies, maternal comorbidities and maternal smoking habits. Such identified parameters have not fully explained how preterm births occur; hence, scientists are continuously conducting studies to discover its triggering factors as well as measures to prevent them.
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