In a new study led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it has been discovered that the rise of premature birth is infact linked to microbes in the cervix and vagina. It is also suggested that due to this finding, therapies that reduce the the risk-raising bacteria could be a very effective way to prevent premature birth,
In particular, it was found that higher levels of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus were linked to lower risk of premature birth, while higher levels of several anaerobic bacteria were linked to a higher risk. The team working on the study checked their findings by collecting samples from 616 women during weeks 22-32 of their pregnancy. Also, the researchers examined the microbiota in vaginal swabs of 1,500 pregnant women sampled at three different times during pregnancy: during weeks 16-20, weeks 20-24, and weeks 24-28. This shows that the study is reliable due to the extensive amount of work put in, however, these findings are still limited due to the study taking place on a small scale.
The finding was awarded with the March Dimes Award for Best Abstract on Prematurity and was even published in The abstract is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Premature birth is birth that occurs before the 37 weeks of pregnancy, which unfortunately is one of the leading cause of death worldwide among children under 5 years of age. as it can cause problems such as jaundice, breathing problems and vision/hearing loss. However, it has recently been found that the number of preterm births is rising again. Michal Elovitz, a professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Perelman and lead author of the study, explains:
“For the first time in 8 years, the number of preterm babies in the United States actually increased in 2016, and unfortunately, there are underlying causes that doctors still don’t understand.”
It has already been discovered that changes in microbes that live on or in our bodies affect our health. For example, scientists have discovered that skin bacteria release an enzyme that protects against disease.
The team have said that they would like to do further research to confirm their findings and even start to investigate whether targeting ‘bad’ bacteria or increasing the numbers of ‘good’ bacteria would be more effective when preventing premature birth.
Finally, I would like to finish on another quote by Professor Michael Elovitz:
“Decoding the causes of prematurity has been a riddle that’s stumped researchers and clinicians for years, but our new study is finally shedding some light on a path toward offering treatment to women we can identify as being at-risk.”
Hopefully, this new finding will prove to be very effective in helping to prevent premature births as much as possible. This way, many lives could be saved.
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