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Uterine bacteria can affect the foetus


Uterine bacteria can affect the foetus

By Peter Aagaard Brixen

According to new research, women can have bacteria in their uteri which may have an impact on foetuses’ immune systems. Until now, the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and the uterus have been considered sterile environments.

New research findings based on samples from 110 Chinese women of childbearing age who were admitted to hospital in China have shown that live bacteria exist in women’s uteri which may have a bearing on the development of the foetus’s immune system. The findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The research was carried out by the Institute of Metagenomics at BGI-Shenzhen, China, in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) in Bergen, and DTU Bioengineering.

The women in the study were admitted to hospital in connection with ailments which required surgery to the abdominal cavity, and the researchers were given permission to extract samples from six places from the women’s reproductive tract, including the Fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the cervix, and the vagina. By means of gene sequencing, the researchers were able to show colonies of several bacteria which are prevalent from the ovaries to the cervix. The study shows that women have many lactic acid bacteria in the form of Lactobacilli in the vagina, but so-called Pseudomonas and a number of other bacteria colonies were found higher up in the uterus.

“One of the important implications of our findings is that the micro-organisms which have been shown to exist in a woman’s reproductive organs may play a role in the development of the foetus’s immune system already during pregnancy. Our immune systems are geared to recognizing micro-organisms, and if the mechanism already develops during pregnancy, it opens the door to a completely new perspective in relation to new studies of the woman’s role in programming the child’s immune system early on in life,” says Associate Professor Susanne Brix from DTU Bioengineering, who participated in the study.

Susanne Brix points out that the research can provide a starting point for developing new tests for diseases and infections in the reproductive tract, as it has been shown that certain bacteria are dominant for certain diseases in the upper parts of the uterus, and that changes caused by these bacteria can also be identified in samples taken from the cervix, which is considerably easier to reach without surgery.

“If we acquire a better insight into the correlation between bacteria and diseases of the uterus, the findings may pave the way for being able to detect diseases in the upper reproductive tract by testing for bacteria in the cervix—today we have to operate to study diseases in, for example, the Fallopian tubes,” says Susanne Brix.

source: Technical University of Denmark

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