Researchers found that a certain type of bacteria living in pregnant women’s vagina may make babies to be born prematurely.
Dr. David Relman, senior author of the study and epidemiologist at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, studied the microorganisms residing in 49 pregnant women in four sites – vagina, saliva, gum, and gut. Study participants were monitored and taken tests on a weekly basis throughout their pregnancy and on a monthly basis after they gave birth.
Test results allowed Dr. Relman’s team learn whether there were any changes in the bacterial blooms of new moms before and after delivery. The team learned that most women had a safe amount of bacteria during pregnancy. Like in women that weren’t carrying a baby, pregnant women had high levels of a non-harmful bacterium called Lactobacillus. This microorganism helps the body process vitamin K and break down lactose in milk and other diary products.
Nevertheless, researchers were surprised to learn that these bacteria were so common in pregnant women, as well, despite the metabolic changes that happen before delivery. They said however that although the levels of the bacteria may be unchanged their functions may be altered during gestation. But a new study would need to be conducted to learn more about those changes, study authors noted.
Surprisingly, women with preterm births were hosts of two types of bacteria responsible for vaginal infections in female patients and urethra inflammation in male patients – Gardnerella and Ureaplasma. But doctors acknowledged that these bacteria are not direct causes of the said conditions. Yet, past studies had found a link between them and the infections.
Gregory Buck, head of Virginia Commonwealth University’s center for the study of biological complexity, explained that previous research found a link between a wide range of bacteria in pregnant women and high risk of premature birth. He also said that the current study confirms that theory.
Dr. Buck argued that especially African-American women tend to house diverse microbiota. So, this may explain why premature births are so common among this ethnic group. Yet, Dr. Buck acknowledged that only a link was found between premature birth risk and diverse macrobiota. So, more studies need to be done before drawing any final conclusions.
Study authors hope that more research may soon help them and clinicians know which women are at high risk of premature birth by just looking at their microbiota. And if bacteria are responsible for premature births, doctors could prevent them by prescribing pregnant women antibiotics or probiotics to balance composition of bacterial communities.
Image Source: Sanaakosirickylee (blog)