New research, funded by the NIHR, Tommy’s Charity and the Rosetree’s Trust, has explored the link between spontaneous preterm birth, ethnicity, vaginal microbiota, metabolome and an individual’s innate immune response.

The paper was produced by a multidisciplinary team including Dr Flavia Flaviani, senior bioinformatician at our NIHR  Guy’s and St Thomas’Biomedical Research Centre, members of the Department of Women and Children’s Health, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and the Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions at King’s College London.

The team have used multi-datatype integration to further understand the contribution of the vaginal environment to risk of preterm birth. They have proposed novel early pregnancy biomarker models for prediction of spontaneous preterm birth and identified bacteria that appear to promote a healthy term pregnancy.

Professor Rachel Tribe, the lead academic, said “The syndrome of spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB) is a complex disease presenting a challenge to mechanistic understanding, clinical biomarker discovery and outcome prediction. We are delighted, that after 5 years of recruitment/longitudinal follow up of women at low and high risk of preterm birth, we have identified some potentially clinically useful biomarkers for prediction of preterm birth.  By assessing a combination of host innate immune response, bacterial communities, and metabolites in cervicovaginal fluid from women in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy we now have greater understanding of how the vaginal environment can influence birth outcomes.”  

Dr Flaviani said “This has been an incredible opportunity to show how research can be translated into clinical settings. This work will have not been possible without all the amazing women volunteering to take part in the research, as well as the clinical and scientific staff that made this research possible. With this work we show the importance of multi-data type studies in uncovering of complex diseases.  We hope that this work brings us a step forward towards the understanding of preterm birth and to identifying women that are at high risk of having a spontaneous preterm birth delivery as early as possible .”

Read the full paper published online at JCI Insight here.