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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56131. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056131. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Comparative microbial analysis of paired amniotic fluid and cord blood from pregnancies complicated by preterm birth and early-onset neonatal sepsis.

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Department of Periodontics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.



16S rRNA-based genomic analyses have revolutionized our understanding of infectious diseases. Many cases which were recognized as "idiopathic" are now known to have an infectious etiology. Here, we present a proof-of-concept study to examine the microbial link between intra-amniotic infection (IAI) and early-onset neonatal sepsis (EONS).


Using culture independent methods, we analyzed paired amniotic fluid (AF) and cord blood (CB) samples from 36 singleton pregnancies complicated by preterm birth (PTB), IAI, and/or EONS. PTB cases were grouped as 1) Group 1- neonatal blood culture-positive EONS (n=6). 2) Group 2- neonatal blood culture-negative presumed EONS with positive IAI (n=16). 3) Group 3- neonatal blood culture-negative presumed EONS with no IAI (n=7); 4) Group 4- no EONS or IAI (n=7). In addition, samples from term healthy deliveries (n=8) served as technical controls. A total of 31 species (15 non-redundant) were identified in AF, of which only 1/3 were cultivated. Significantly fewer microorganisms were detected in CB, with a total of 18 species (7 non-redundant) identified, of which only 2 (Escherichia coli, Streptococcus agalactiae) were cultivated. Of those, Bergeyella, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and Sneathia sanguinegens had not been detected in EONS before. The novel species identified in AF by PCR include Peptoniphilus harei and Lachnospiraceae sp. The majority (72%) of CB species were also detected in the matching AF, with E. coli and F. nucleatum as the most prevalent. The 16S rRNA sequences of paired AF and CB were 99.9-100% identical, while no identical sequences were found between different pregnancies.


Previously unrecognized, uncultivated or difficult-to-cultivate species are implicated in EONS. Microbial species in paired AF and CB likely share the same infectious origin. Given its prevalence in EONS, F. nucleatum should be placed on the same importance scale as E. coli.

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