Doctors are examining the relationship between microbes and premature babies
Researchers have now found that pregnant women who are at increased risk of preterm birth can be identified early by examining the microbes in their reproductive tract.
In their research, scientists from the internationally respected Imperial College London found that an examination of the microbes in the reproductive tract of pregnant women can indicate whether they are more likely to give birth prematurely.
The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "BMC Medicine".
Researchers study over 250 women for their study
Imperial College London experts examined swab specimens from 250 pregnant women. In addition, the samples from 87 participants with premature membrane rupture were analyzed. The scientists came to the conclusion that subtle changes in the so-called vaginal bacteria before the 37th week of pregnancy can lead to premature birth. Of the 250 pregnant participants, a total of 27 women had a premature birth.
Results provide information on the role of bacteria in premature babies
“This study is one of the first to show that almost half of pregnant women experience an unbalanced vaginal microbiota before an early termination, which provides further clues to the role of bacteria in some cases of premature birth,” explains study author Dr. David MacIntyre in a press release from Imperial College London.
Antibiotics could be helpful for some subjects, but more harmful for other participants
“It is crucial that our results identify two different groups of women with an early break. Antibiotics can be useful in one group and this treatment can actually be harmful in the other group, ”adds the expert. Previous studies have shown that the bacteria found in the vagina are less diverse during pregnancy, and an increase in the types of Lactobacillus bacteria has usually been observed.
What happens if the Lactobacillus bacteria content drops?
However, if the Lactobacillus bacteria content decreases and the content of other types of bacteria increases, this can lead to contractions starting sooner than expected in an expectant mother. Lactobacillus bacteria can usually be found in the digestive system, urinary system and genital area of the human body.
Changes in the types of bacteria can lead to sepsis in newborns
The identified changes in vaginal bacteria could also pose a health risk to mothers and their babies, with newborns potentially at risk of sepsis, the scientists explain. Based on the results of the study, doctors may be able in the future to provide pregnant women with the specific antibiotic treatment they need.
More research is needed
"Our results suggest that a stronger, personalized approach that targets only women who are likely to benefit from antibiotics could prove more beneficial than the current approach," said author Dr. Richard Brown from Imperial College London. However, further examinations are necessary in order to precisely determine the relationship between vaginal bacteria and premature birth. If this relationship is further confirmed, changes in recommended treatment could be made. (as)