Blocking the inflammatory response to bacteria may hold the key to healthier babies.
Researchers working in a mouse model report good results from a strategy aimed at defusing key receptors in the placenta that trigger inflammation when they sense the presence of bacteria. Inflammation can then led to early labor and increased risk of death for the infant, who may be born too prematurely to thrive.
In the study, investigators from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland compared results for three groups of mice. One group was genetically engineered not to have the receptors. A second group had the receptors but was given a treatment to block their response to bacteria. The third group had intact receptors and no attempt was made to block the inflammatory response.
Researchers then injected the mice with bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is commonly found in the amniotic fluid of babies born before they reach full term. The mice without the receptors had healthy pubs. Mice with the receptors had about 50-percent more fetal deaths than mice with the receptors but treated with a compound to block the inflammatory response.
The authors call the compound “a promising anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment and prevention of adverse pregnancy outcomes” and call for more study to assess the feasibility of using it in pregnant women at risk for preterm birth.
SOURCE: The Journal of Immunology, 2007;179:2501-2508