Scientists have created a simple, inexpensive and quick way to monitor the microbes that live in the human vagina.
The test is quick and easy, taking only three minutes. This beats current technology by as much as eight hours. The new analysis can identify inflammatory markers in the host, which can help determine if there is a bacterial infection.
This information could save the life of a pregnant woman.
If a vaginal infection develops during pregnancy, it can increase your risk of preterm birth and pregnancy loss. Preterm infant death due to infection is the leading cause of death worldwide.
David MacIntyre from Imperial College London, who is a researcher in reproductive medicine, says that this device is the first of its kind.
"This information could help doctors and patients monitor preterm birth risk, as well as to optimize treatment options such a more selective use antibiotics.
Researchers plan to apply for regulatory approval for this test. However, we cannot predict what the results will reveal until we learn more about pre-term pregnancy markers.
The vaginal microbiome is still a mystery. It may even be more mysterious than the gut microbiome. This is quite telling considering how little we know about it.
Recent research has shown that the vaginal microbiome, unlike the gut which thrives on diversity and diversity, is actually more beneficial.
Lactobacillus crispatus, a microbe that is known to thrive in pregnancy, seems to be a sign of good health. It protects against the immune response, which can lead to preterm birth.
L. crispatus becomes depleted when certain microbes become out of control. This is known as bacterial vignanosis. This type of microbial imbalance could increase the chance of miscarriage, preterm births, and even HPV infections. A reduction in L. crispyatus could help doctors identify pregnant patients most at risk.
The new test could detect the microbial composition of 365 women during their pregnancies. However, it did not predict who would give birth prematurely. Only the risk factors doctors should be aware of were identified by the analysis.
The authors state, "This is not surprising considering the fact that preterm birth can be caused many factors including non-microbial or immune-related causes."
However, new results from the swabs showed that preterm babies who had a braided suture placed in their cervix to prevent them giving birth were at higher risk for developing vaginal inflammation.
This means that pre-term births can be caused by a common preventative procedure.
However, the infection and inflammation that can be caused by cervix reinforcement with a different material don't seem as severe.
These findings are supported in a previous study by the same authors. It found that braided sutures increase the risk for bacterial infection, inflammation, preterm birth, and even death.
The authors state that the ability to give such information at the point of care would transform clinical decision-making and ultimately improve outcomes for women and babies.
This new test may be able to help.
Nature Communications published the study.