Vaginal Bacteria May Increase The Risk Of Preterm Birth

First Posted: Aug 18, 2015 10:21 PM EDT

Certain types of microbial communities or microbiota may increase the risk of premature birth, according to researchers at Stanford University. A new study monitored the bacterial neighborhoods in different parts of a woman's reproductive tract, which can potentially determine the risk. 

The case-control investigation involved 49 pregnant subjects, 15 of whom had preterm deliveries that obtained 3,767 specimen samples from participants' tooth, gum, distal gut, saliva and vaginal areas, prospectively, during pregnancy and monthly after the delivery. Researchers then examined the bacterial taxonomic composition of specimens to come up with the findings.

Study results revealed that those who went into preterm labor had a different pattern of vaginal bacteria than other mothers-to-be.

Though the study authors are not entirely certain why some bacteria may increase risk, they did find that at-risk mothers had low levels of lactobacillus bacteria--a family of bugs thought to be important for overall vaginal health.

"Our discovery is important because it might allow us to determine which women are at elevated risk of premature birth by measuring the kinds of bacteria in their vagina early in pregnancy when there is still time to intervene and try to reduce the risk," concluded study co-author Dr. David Relman, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, via Health Day

However, more studies will be needed to confirm the link.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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