It is the placenta harbored bacteria which is to blame for premature births that have become a devastating problem worldwide. A new study has found that the placenta, which has been believed to be sterile, has a world of bacteria that influences the course of pregnancy and help shape an infant’s health and the bacterial makeup of its gut.
The researchers say the bacteria present in placenta is likely to be blamed for pregnancy related problems. After analyzing the study findings, the researchers suspect that the wrong mix of bacteria in the placenta may contribute to premature births.
Scientists used a technique called shotgun metagenomic sequencing to search for the placental tissue for bacterial DNA. They also shaved off the outer layer of each placenta and tested samples from the inside, in order to avoid surface contamination.
The research is in preliminary stage but the study authors believe that it may help in explaining why periodontal disease and urinary infections in pregnant women are linked to an increased risk of premature birth.
Moreover, the study has also suggested the need for more studies on the effects of antibiotics taken during pregnancy.
Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, the first author of the new study, said, “I think women can be reassured that they have not doomed their infant’s microbiome for the rest of its life.”
She also expressed need for in-depth studies to determine the influence of cesareans on the microbiome.
The bacteria in the placenta most closely resemble the bacteria that normally reside in a person’s mouth, the researchers noted.
Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in New York City who was not involved with the study, said, “A mother’s oral health is even more important to the health of her unborn child than previously thought. Possibly people with gum disease have more pockets of this bacteria and are chronically overloading the body with bacteria. That bacteria could concentrate in the placenta and cause premature delivery.”
If the study findings are confirmed to be correct, the study will act as a major breakthrough for women who have had cesareans. Researchers believe that babies born by cesarean miss out on helpful bacteria that they would normally be exposed to in the birth canal.
The study was published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.