More on the Question of a Fetal Microbiome

Back in early March, I wrote about the current scientific controversy regarding whether or not a fetal microbiome exists.  I promised to follow the argument and update you.

Well, keeping to that promise, here’s an update:

Just published is research[i] that shows that not only are bacteria present in placenta, but it appears that a surplus of pathogenic ones are associated with preterm births.

UK scientists compared 250 placenta from a mixture of preterm births (before 37 weeks) and controls (full term births).  (Interesting side note:  they also sampled the study environment in order to be able to distinguish potential contamination from bacteria that were present during pregnancy.  There were distinct differences between the placental bacteria from C-section versus vaginal births  However, these differences were attributed to the delivery method rather than in the placenta before birth.)

While bacteria WERE found in both healthy and preterm placenta, the placental bacteria from preterm births had a higher number of pathogenic bacteria including, for example, mycoplasma.  The researchers conclude that this supports the observation that maternal infection is associated with spontaneous birth.

“Preterm birth is associated with both psychological and physical disabilities and is the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Infection is known to be an important cause of spontaneous preterm birth and recent research has implicated variation in the placental microbiome with preterm birth risk.”

Right now, the argument looks like it’s leaning in favor of a microbiome being present before birth.  Considering the possible health implications, I’ll certainly continue to monitor the research.



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