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Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1997 Mar;11(1):135-76.

Pathogenesis of preterm labor and preterm premature rupture of membranes associated with intraamniotic infection.

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Perinatology Research Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


We have proposed a model in which the initiation of human parturition in the presence of infection is controlled by the host. Systemic maternal infections such as pyelonephritis or localized infections such as deciduitis can trigger parturition by the activation of the monocyte and macrophage system in peripheral blood and human decidua. Preterm labor and preterm PROM can, according to this, be considered events that occur when the intrauterine or maternal environment is hostile and threaten the survival of the fetal-maternal pair. From this point of view, the initiation of preterm labor may have survival value. Why does intrauterine infection result in preterm labor in some cases and PROM in others? It is possible that regulation of different components of the host response has an important role to play in determining clinical presentation. Thus, if preferential activation of the host response leads to the secretion of uterotonic agents (i.e., prostaglandins), preterm labor will result. On the other hand, if the activation of the host response results predominantly in the production of proteases (i.e., leukocyte elastase and MMPs), patients are more likely to experience PROM. Preterm labor and preterm PROM can be considered expressions of the same basic phenomenon: activation of the host-defense macrophage system. Although we have provided evidence that infection is an important factor in the pathogenesis of these conditions, preterm parturition should be considered as a syndrome with multiple causes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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