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Bacterial communities found in placental tissues are associated with severe chorioamnionitis and adverse birth outcomes.

  • Author(s): Doyle, Ronan M
  • Harris, Kathryn
  • Kamiza, Steve
  • Harjunmaa, Ulla
  • Ashorn, Ulla
  • Nkhoma, Minyanga
  • Dewey, Kathryn G
  • Maleta, Kenneth
  • Ashorn, Per
  • Klein, Nigel
  • et al.
Abstract

Preterm birth is a major cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity worldwide. Bacterial infection and the subsequent inflammatory response are recognised as an important cause of preterm birth. It is hypothesised that these organisms ascend the cervical canal, colonise placental tissues, cause chorioamnionitis and in severe cases infect amniotic fluid and the foetus. However, the presence of bacteria within the intrauterine cavity does not always precede chorioamnionitis or preterm birth. Whereas previous studies observing the types of bacteria present have been limited in size and the specificity of a few predetermined organisms, in this study we characterised bacteria found in placental tissues from a cohort of 1391 women in rural Malawi using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing. We found that specific bacteria found concurrently on placental tissues associate with chorioamnionitis and delivery of a smaller newborn. Severe chorioamnionitis was associated with a distinct difference in community members, a higher bacterial load and lower species richness. Furthermore, Sneathia sanguinengens and Peptostreptococcus anaerobius found in both matched participant vaginal and placental samples were associated with a lower newborn length-for-age Z-score. This is the largest study to date to examine the placental microbiome and its impact of birth outcomes. Our results provide data on the role of the vaginal microbiome as a source of placental infection as well as the possibility of therapeutic interventions against targeted organisms during pregnancy.

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