“This is a collaborative effort to apply cutting-edge technology to one of the fundamental problems in maternal-fetal health,” says Douglas Creedon, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic obstetrician and gynecologist. The project also represents the first major initiative of the newly formed Mayo-Illinois Strategic Alliance for Technology-Based Health Care.
“Bacterial vaginosis affects between 10 and 15 percent of women of reproductive age and is associated with a host of genital tract infections and pregnancy complications,” says lead researcher Bryan White, Ph.D., a professor of animal science at Illinois. “Our ultimate goal is to use the wealth of genomic information from the Human Microbiome Project to improve women’s health.” The Human Microbiome Project is an NIH program to identify and catalog the microbes within the human body and determine their impact on health.
Drs. White and Creedon, along with co-leader Brenda Wilson, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology at Illinois, and Karen Nelson, Ph.D., and Derrick Fouts, Ph.D., at the J. Craig Venter Institute, will use the emerging microbiome, metagenome, and reference genome datasets to characterize the microbiomes associated with urogenital infections. These include bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection and yeast vaginitis, which afflict over 1 billion women each year.
The project, entitled “The human vaginal microbiome and bacterial vaginosis,” will explore the complex relationship between vaginal microbiota and humans. Scientists are particularly interested in the link between the vaginal infection and preterm birth, as microbiologic evidence suggests that infection may contribute to approximately 25 percent of preterm births.
“In most cases of preterm labor and delivery, intrauterine infection is not clinically apparent,” Dr. White says. “But there seems to be a strong correlation between infection and premature birth. We see colonization rates as high as 79 percent for birth at 23 weeks of gestation, yet they decline to 11 percent at 31 to 34 weeks.”
A $650,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) will help support the work. Drs. White and Wilson are both members of the Host-Microbe Systems Research Theme at Illinois’s Institute for Genomic Biology.
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Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first.” More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.