Over half a million babies are born preterm every year in the U.S. alone, leaving these children to bear significantly elevated risk of death, morbidity, and developmental problems. The way a fetus responds to inflammation in the uterus appear to contribute to the risk of preterm labor, but what is the role of the individual bacterial strains that cause the inflammation? Does a fetus respond differently to different sources of inflammation?
A study just published in mBio reveals that in preterm births, microorganisms that colonize the placenta provoke distinctive inflammatory responses in the fetus. What’s more, Lactobacillus species appear to suppress these responses. Could full-term births be encouraged through antibiotics that target the villains and probiotics that sow Lactobacilli in the uterus?