In the U.S., the annual cost of health care for newborns with complications approaches $26 billion, and worldwide, preterm birth is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among neonates. Despite improved survival rates, the past few decades have seen no significant decrease in preterm births. It is becoming more clear that the billions of bacteria that colonize the human body play important roles in the health of the individual. However, the role of the millions of bacteria and other microbes that colonize the human female urogenital tract in prenatal health and birth of a healthy baby remains obscure. Previous to the recent development of 'omics' technologies; i.e., genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, interactomics, etc., it was not possible to study these microbial populations in any in depth or highly efficient way. Many of these organisms have never been characterized and a fairly large fraction have not been successfully cultured. Herein, we propose to use these 'omic' technologies to dissect the bacterial populations that inhabit and colonize the female urogenital tract of pregnant women to assess the role(s) of these organisms in maintenance of health or in the cause of disease in these women and their babies. An understanding of the roles these organisms play in the health of the female urogenital tract will lead to better, more efficient prenatal and postnatal care, likely leading to diminished levels of preterm birth and infant morbidity and mortality.
Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide. We are applying revolutionary 'omics' technologies to study the populations of bacteria that live in the female urogenital tract to identify their roles in vaginal health and disease, and to the outcome of the pregnancy. These studies will likely lead to improved outcomes of pregnancy and birth.
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