Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery

Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births (between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation) occur.
Normally, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, but in case of preterm births has gestation between 28 and 32 weeks. India with 35% accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world.
What researchers have found?

  • For the first, Indian researchers have found that gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria that produce small balloons called membrane vesicles.
  • These small balloons contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together.
  • The GBS bacteria normally are found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women. They are associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth.

Test on pregnant mice

  • The team tested its hypothesis by injecting vesicles into 15 pregnant mice. All the injected mice gave birth to preterm babies and nearly 40% were born dead (stillborn).
  • In mice, the babies were born two days preterm. The preterm babies were much smaller and unhealthy. This is equivalent to two months in humans as the gestation period in mice is 21 days.

Why do preterm babies need special care?

  • Preterm babies are not fully prepared to live outside their mother’s womb. They get cold more easily and may need more help feeding than full-term babies.
  • Their bodies are not fully developed and they may have problems breathing and can also suffer from other complications including infections.



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