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Meta-Analysis of Vaginal Microbiome Data Provides New Insights Into Preterm Birth

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Preterm birth (PTB) is defined as the birth of an infant before 37 weeks of gestational age. It is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. In this study, we present a comprehensive meta-analysis of vaginal microbiome in PTB. We integrated raw longitudinal 16S rRNA vaginal microbiome data from five independent studies across 3,201 samples and were able to gain new insights into the vaginal microbiome state in women who deliver preterm in comparison to those who deliver at term. We found that women who deliver prematurely show higher within-sample variance in vaginal microbiome abundance, with the most significant difference observed during the first trimester. Modeling the data longitudinally revealed a number of microbial genera as associated with PTB, including several that were previously known and two newly identified by this meta-analysis: Olsenella and Clostridium sensu stricto. New hypotheses emerging from this integrative analysis can lead to novel diagnostics to identify women who are at higher risk for PTB and potentially inform new therapeutic interventions.

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