Another long-term goal of the lab is to elucidate the mechanisms underlying preterm birth (PTB), a leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in developing countries, to develop targeted therapeutic modalities and ultimately limit the burden of PTB. Intrauterine infections are prominently associated with PTB, yet the mechanisms by which such infections might trigger PTB are poorly understood. Antibiotic treatment is relatively ineffective for preventing PTB suggesting that the putative infectious organisms may be ‘hidden’ within the tissue.
We have recently identified intracellular bacteria in cells in the basal plate of the placenta, which comprise the tissue layer at the maternal–fetal interface, and found strong association with very early preterm births. We are currently investigating the mechanisms by which these occult microorganisms in the basal plate may trigger adverse pregnancy outcomes such as PTB.