Premature birth can be predicted as early as 10 weeks after conception by analyzing the bacteria and chemicals found in a pregnant woman’s cervicovaginal fluid. Scientists believe that it is possible to create a test for women at risk of premature delivery, which could give them enough time to prepare before their baby comes earlier than expected.
Researchers from King’s College London have discovered a way to predict the risk of premature birth at an early stage in pregnancy. This means that doctors will be able to identify high-risk pregnancies much earlier, and start appropriate treatment sooner—potentially saving lives. At the beginning of pregnancy, therapies or surgical procedures can now be implemented before problems arise later on when it is too late for intervention due to overpopulation in lungs and brain injuries arising out of underdeveloped organ systems which make survival difficult if not impossible
Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea live in the human body. These microbes are referred to as microbiota or bacteria that inhabit our bodies. They produce metabolites like proteins and sugars which help keep us healthy since they make up a metabolome (or collection of molecules related to metabolism).
Spontaneous Preterm Labor Syndrome (sPTB) is the leading cause of death and morbidity in newborns worldwide. It weakens and shortens the cervix, which can be influenced by infections that create accompanying inflammation at this time before birth. Now scientists have discovered some warning signs that indicate a risk of premature birth up to 10 weeks after conception; these are seen on ultrasound imaging with increased vascularization around fetal membranes during pregnancy week 7-10.
A study of cervicovaginal fluid samples from 346 pregnant women in four hospitals in the UK found that there was a significant difference between those who gave birth before 37 weeks and those who didn’t. The researchers had at their disposal data from 60 of whom gave birth prematurely, as well as two sets (one each) for another 290 non-preemie mothers. Cervicovaginal fluid samples were collected twice: once during weeks 10 to 15 and again during weeks 16 to 23. After analyzing the bacterial composition present within these fluids along with biochemical substances known to be involved with BV, preemies were divided into several groups – one group included only premature births given by cesarean section after 36 weeks; others included both.
It was observed that women who gave birth at 34 weeks of gestation or earlier had such metabolites as glucose, aspartate, and calcium in the composition of the cervicovaginal fluid in combination with Lactobacillus crispatus and acidophilus bacteria. In contrast, the cervicovaginal fluid of pregnant women, giving birth at 37 weeks or earlier, was dominated by leucine, tyrosine, aspartate, lactate, betaine, acetate, and calcium.
These links were equally important when testing expectant mothers in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, the researchers emphasize. So it is possible to predict the risk of premature birth at a very early stage. “The sooner we find out which woman is at risk of pregnancy, the more we can do to keep mother and baby safe,” said study co-author Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at the School of Life Course Sciences.
In addition, it was first noticed that a specific bacterium called Lactobacillus acidophilus (a species of lactobacilli) reduces the risk of premature birth, which could lead to the development of new preventive therapies, the researchers from King’s College London hope.
With so many factors, testing for one bacterial species is unlikely to predict premature labor in any mother, but now we have a whole range of bacteria and metabolites that could prove useful as warning signals
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