Association between premature birth and the presence of chemicals in the vagina

It is an American study which indicates that it is “An additional track to reduce prematurity in the world”.

On 12 January the magazine The microbiology of nature disclosed the results of a study conducted by researchers from the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.

It reveals that certain chemical substances found in cosmetics and other hygiene products are strongly associated with premature birth. As a reminder, a birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy is the leading cause of neonatal death and can lead to various health problems throughout life.

To conduct their study, the researchers followed 232 women during the second trimester of pregnancy and until delivery. Among them, 80 experienced a premature birth.

It is in the metabolome of the vagina that the researchers are interested. These are small molecules, called metabolites, which are found in a part of the body and which allow an understanding of their role. 700 different metabolites have thus been identified. And it turns out that some were particularly high in women who had experienced a premature birth.

A non-biological origin

Tal Korem, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement:

Many of these metabolites are chemicals that are not produced by the human body or microbes. These include diethanolamine, ethyl beta-glucoside, tartrate and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. Although we did not identify the source of these xenobiotics in our participants, they could all be found in cosmetics and hygiene products.

He adds that environmental exposures must be analyzed and, if so, what their origin is. But he wants to be reassuring: “The good news is that if these chemicals are responsible, it is possible to limit these potentially harmful exposures.”

No causality yet

Admittedly, the causal relationship between the presence of chemicals in the vagina and premature birth has not been formally established. Because other causes (malformations of the uterus, age of the woman, multiple pregnancy, etc.) can play a role.

But Professor Korem insists: “Our findings show that vaginal metabolites have the ability to predict, months in advance, which women are likely to give birth prematurely.”

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