New research from Duke University School of Medicine suggests a link between high levels of bacteria and increased rates of premature births.
The study measured the bacteria levels on 48 membranes from women who had given birth. Although bacteria were found in all membrane samples, the membranes from premature births had higher levels of bacteria and were found to be thinner than those membranes that had gone full term.
Amy Murtha, the study author and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University, says her research focuses on finding out why membranes break early during certain pregnancies.
Fetal membranes are made up of two cell layers, the amnion and chorion layers. Previous research from Murtha has suggested that the chorion layer may be thinner in women who deliver prematurely.
The current study published in the online journal PloS One measured the chorion membrane and found it to be thinnest in membranes from premature births and not isolated to the rupture sites.
Murtha explains that further research needs to be done to understand whether high levels of bacteria are a cause or a consequence of early membrane rupture. Based on those results, better screening processes can be put into place to prevent premature births in the future.