Microbes might play role in premature births

Microbes in the wrong place at the wrong time – a woman’s amniotic fluid during pregnancy – might play a role in causing premature births, according to a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Using a sensitive molecular technique, researchers found a greater quantity and variety of bacteria and fungi in a significant portion of women who gave birth prematurely. The more severe the infection, the earlier the women were likely to give birth.

Dr. Dan DiGiulio, a research associate Stanford University School of Medicine, used two techniques of molecular biology – polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequencing – to look for microbes in amniotic fluid samples from 166 women in pre-term labor. Of these, 113 went on to deliver prematurely and 53 carried their babies full term.

DiGiulio found evidence of infection in 15 percent of the samples, all from women who gave birth early. The microbes found represented one fungal and 17 bacterial species, according to the report published Monday.

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