The type of bacteria that colonize the placenta during pregnancy could be associated with preterm birth and other developmental problems in newborns, scientists have revealed.
"The fetal inflammatory response appears to contribute to the onset of preterm labor, fetal injury and complications, underlying lifetime health challenges facing these children," said the researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital of Boston.
"Our data suggest that placental colonization by specific groups of organisms can increase or decrease the risk of a systemic inflammatory condition," the authors said.
The systemic fetal inflammatory response to intrauterine exposures, especially intrauterine infections, is regarded as an important contributor to the onset and often life-long consequences of preterm labor, fetal injury and early organ damage.
Approximately half of all placentas delivered before the second trimester and 41percent of those delivered by Caesarean section harbor microorganisms detectable by culture techniques.
In order to better understand what role, these microorganisms could play in the extremely preterm inflammatory response the researchers analyzed protein biomarkers in dry blood spots obtained from 527 newborns delivered by Caesarean section and cultured and identified the bacteria from their respective placentas.
Placentas colonized primarily by microorganisms commonly associated with the condition know as bacterial vaginosis (BV) were found to be associated with elevated levels of proinflammatory protein in newborns.
In contrast, colonization by Lactobacillus species of bacteria (often found in decreased concentrations during BV) were associated with lower levels of proinflammatory proteins.
"Our study supports the concept that the placental colonization with vaginal microorganisms can induce a systemic inflammatory response in the fetus and newborn and that the dominating molecular feature of this response can be dependent on the type of bacteria," said Andrew Onderdonk, one of the authors of the study.
The study is published in the current issue of the online journal mBio.