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Composition of vaginal bacteria may determine the risk for premature delivery

Posted:  Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A new research has pointed one more possible factor which could lead to premature delivery in women. American researchers found that women displaying a different pattern of vaginal bacteria i.e. increased levels of gardnerella and ureaplasma bacteria and lower levels of lactobacilli were at an increased risk for premature delivery.

The results of the study were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For the study, the researchers evaluated 49 pregnant women, 15 of whom delivered prematurely. The participants gave weekly samples from the vagina, lower gut, saliva and tooth and gum areas during pregnancy and monthly samples for a year after delivery. The researchers then characterised the bacterial communities.

They found that for most women, the composition of bacteria from the body sites did not change much during pregnancy. They also found that consistent with previous research, vaginal bacteria fell into 5 patterns. Four of these patterns showed a dominance of lactobacilli and were not associated with preterm birth.

However, the 5th pattern with lower concentration of lactobacilli seemed to be associated with preterm birth especially if this pattern lasted for several weeks. According to the researchers, presence of this pattern early in the first or second trimester or even before pregnancy could set the way for premature delivery.

Analysing the bacterial composition up to a year post delivery revealed that the composition changed drastically irrespective of caesarean or normal delivery. The researchers believe that this shift in the bacterial composition could also determine prematurity, if the pregnancies are closely spaced.

The authors stress on the need for confirming the results of this study in a larger, more diverse group of women such that doctors can identify a pattern to predict the risk of premature delivery. This also opens a window for probiotics as a treatment to improve the bacterial composition and prevent premature birth.

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