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Infection May Cause Preterm Births

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 12:53 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Premature babies, Preterm Labor, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Antibiotics, Autism, Cerebral Palsy

An infection of amniotic fluid may be causing premature births.



IMAGE SOURCE : Wikimedia Commons/ premature infant/ author: Hallbrianh


An infection of the amniotic fluid may be leading to premature births, according to Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.

A preterm birth is defined as a birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Taking the amniotic fluid from 166 women who went into labor early, 15 percent of samples contained bacteria or fungus.  

That represented an increase of 50 percent over previous estimates.  The more infection present, the more likely the women delivered earlier and a sicker infant.

These infections may be more common than previously thought and may be leading to an increase in the frequency of premature births, currently about 12 percent of all births in the U.S.

The preterm delivery may be a response to inflammation after microbes infiltrate the amniotic sac or travel through the mother’s bloodstream.

A baby born preterm has not only a low birth weight, but may have breathing difficulties from underdeveloped lungs or immature organs.  They are at greater risk for cerebral palsy, developing disabilities and infections.

"To find that this amniotic compartment, which we have traditionally viewed as somewhat sacrosanct, is infected significantly more often than we thought is a little shocking," senior author Dr. David Relman, a professor of infectious disease and of microbiology and immunology, said in a Stanford news release.

Working with Wayne State Medical School in Detroit, researchers at the Detroit Medical Center used a highly sensitive technique called polymerase chain reaction or PCR, which was able to detect infections not previously seen by using cultures.

Dr. Dan DiGiulio who conducted the study in the laboratory of Dr. David Relman, the author said, "In contrast, the PCR technique used by the researchers tracks down and copies small portions of DNA encoding a cellular component called ribosomal RNA that is shared by all living creatures -- kind of like screening for "all people with fingers."

The study is published in the Aug. 26 issue of the journal PLoS-ONE.

Common infections include Candida, a fungus; vaginosis, a bacteria; and trichomoniasis, a single-cell parasite.

Treatments include antibiotics or anti-yeast creams.

Studies are now underway to collect amniotic fluid in the 20th week of pregnancy to try and find infections before they lead to preterm labor.

Previous studies have shown that using Epsom salts cuts reduces premature labor. 

The number of underweight infants has increased to its highest rate in 40 years, according to a new survey which finds Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana are the states hardest hit.

Babies born underweight, defined as less than 5.5 pounds, are at a greater risk of having long-term disabilities or dying.

Low birth weight has also been linked to autism.

Premature births are the leading factor in low birth weight children.

Low-birth-weight babies, born pre-term have also been the subject of a recent study on whether living near highways has an effect. #

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