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Certain genes in infants may dictate the risk of preterm birth

Posted:  Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A birth is said to be preterm if it occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Now, researchers have identified that certain genes in infants could increase their risk of preterm birth.

These findings were honoured by the March of Dimes at the Society for Maternal Foetal Medicine's annual meeting. As part of the study, the researchers analysed the number of copies of certain genes in hundreds of babies and their mothers.

They found no link between the number of copies of these genes in mothers and the risk of preterm birth. However, they found that if any specific set of 4 genes were duplicated or if any of 7 specific genes were deleted, then the risk of early preterm birth (<34 weeks) increased by 2 to 11 times.

They found that differences in the number of copies of the genes may not trigger a preterm birth. The differences may however put them at higher risk of infection that may trigger preterm delivery.

Generally, mothers are treated with progesterone to prevent some preterm births, but this treatment is effective only for about one-third of pregnant women. Talking about the findings, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer Dr. Edward McCabe said, “These findings may help explain what triggers early labour in some women even when they've done everything right during pregnancy and there's no obvious cause for an early birth.”

Children born preterm are at an increased risk for mortality and morbidity due to infections. The findings of this study are definitely positive and backed by further research; they could form the basis for the development of a screening tool to prevent preterm birth.

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