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Univ. of Illinois Teams with Mayo, JCVI on Preterm Birth Predictors

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use a $650,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to partner with researchers at Mayo Clinic and the J. Craig Venter Institute to study the genomes of microbes to identify microbial risk predictors for preterm birth.

Specifically, the researchers will use metagenomics approaches to characterize microbiomes associated with infections that affect more than 1 billion women each year, including bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection, and yeast vaginitis. The aim is to find links between urogenital infections and preterm birth, and then find risk predictors.

"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," Bryan White, a professor of animal science at Illinois and lead researcher on the project, said in a statement.

"In most cases of preterm labor and delivery, intrauterine infection is not clinically apparent," he said. "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."

"Our ultimate goal is to use the wealth of genomic information from the Human Microbiome Project to improve women's health," said White

The project is the first major initiative in the newly formed Mayo-Illinois Strategic Alliance for Technology-Based Health Care.

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