Clinical OMICS

JUL-AUG 2019

Healthcare magazine for research scientists, labs, pathologists, hospitals, cancer centers, physicians and biopharma companies providing news articles, expert interviews and videos about molecular diagnostics in precision medicine

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8 Clinical OMICs July/August 2019 www.clinicalomics.com News P reterm birth is one of the leading causes of infant mor- tality. Approximately 10% of babies born in the U.S. in 2018 were born before 37 weeks gestation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also reports that the risk of preterm birth in 2016 was 14% for African American women versus 9% for white women. Right now, physicians are stymied by the fact that few reliable indicators of preterm birth exist. But a new study suggests that the vaginal microbiome may allow doctors to identify women who are at high risk for preterm birth. "We compared the microbiome signatures in vaginal swab samples taken in pregnancy and found a signature early in pregnancy that distinguished women who would go on to deliver spontaneously preterm from case-matched controls who delivered at term," said the study's lead author, Jennifer Fettweis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Virginia Commonwealth University. The study, which was published in Nature Medicine, was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Currently, doctors often don't know a woman is going to deliver a baby prematurely until she is already in labor. "Our knowledge of predicting preterm birth is very rudimentary, and there are no great predictors of preterm birth, which is a major public health issue," said Andrew Bremer, M.D., Ph.D., acting chief of the NICHD pregnancy and perinatology branch that funded the study. According to Bremer, the cur- rent study's findings offer hope that the fight against preterm labor can go from being reactive to proactive. "If a woman were to get a screen based on her vaginal microbiome, then other interventions could be implemented to potentially carry that pregnancy to term," he told Clinical OMICs. Multi-omics approach Fettweis and colleagues analyzed omics data for 597 women who were part of the Multi-Omic Microbiome Study-Preg- nancy Initiative (MOMS-PI), which included 1572 pregnan- cies. They generated omics data for approximately 12,000 samples as part of the integrative Human Microbiome Proj- ect, a program of the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. To study the potential association of microbiome composition in preterm birth, they obtained vaginal swab samples from 45 pregnant women who ultimately delivered preterm and compared them to samples from 90 pregnant women who delivered at term. Eighty percent of the women in the preterm cohort identified as African American. "We case-matched women based on ethnicity, ancestry, age and annual household income to women who delivered 39 weeks or later," Fettweis explained. The researchers wanted to know if there was a difference in microbiomes between the two groups—a signature that could retrospectively predict preterm birth. They used 16S ribosomal RNA data to determine micro- bial profiles, metagenomics to identify microbial spe- cies, metatranscriptomics to determine which genes were turned on and what these microbial species Microbiome-Based Diagnostic May Predict Preterm Birth By Camille Mojica Rey, Ph.D. Greg Kuehn, VP and COO, Prescient Metabiomics The CDC reports the risk of preterm birth in 2016 was 14% for African American women, more than 50% higher than the rate for white women. monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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