Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Investigating the causes of premature birth

   The Journal.ie report that new findings by Irish researchers examining the cause of premature births could form a breakthrough in the struggle to reduce infant mortality.

    The scientists at Trinity College Dublin were examining the causes of premature births and pre-eclampsia, a common pregnancy condition which in severe cases can be fatal. Premature birth is the biggest cause of infant mortality on a global scale. The research showed that mothers who give birth prematurely or develop pre-eclampsia – the key symptom of which is high blood pressure – have higher levels of their baby’s DNA in their own blood.

   This is sensed by a protein called TLR9 which can cause an inflammatory reaction, leading in turn to premature labour. However, the research found that the inflammation can be blocked by drugs including chloroquin, which is more widely known as an antimalarial.
Luke O’Neill, a biochemistry professor at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, said:
   The normal job of TLR9 is to sense DNA from viruses and bacteria. In preterm labour however, where the baby’s DNA enters the mother’s blood, TLR9 does mischief causing early birth. Our study makes TLR9 an attractive target to stop preterm birth
    John O’Leary, professor of pathology at TCD, said research in this area was crucial.
“Premature birth is the biggest cause of infant mortality worldwide. Why babies are born early, as defined as less than 37 weeks gestation, is not known,” he said.
     Much work has also been carried out on the link between abortion and premature birth. Many studies have shown a statistically significant increase in preterm birth or low birth weight after an induced abortion. Brent Rooney and Byron Calhoun MD writing in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons as far back as 2003  on InducedAbortion and  Risk of LaterPremature Births” pointed to 49 studies that demonstrated a statistically significant increase in premature births  or low birth weight risk in women with prior induced abortions.
Since then further research has placed the number of studies showing the connection has increased to fifty-nine (59) 
The fifty nine studies all found that there was a significant increased risk of preterm birth or low birth weight of babies in women who have had a previous induced abortion as compared to women with no previous induced abortion. Three of the studies examined the question as to whether a previous induced abortion caused an increased risk for extremely early preterm births. All three found an increased risk. Two of these studies were done in Australia and one in Europe.
 Twenty of the studies examined the question as to whether the number of previous induced abortions a woman has will increase her risk of having a subsequent preterm birth. All of these studies found that this was the case. The more induced abortions a woman had, the higher her risk of subsequent preterm births.