1887

Abstract

Each year, 15 million infants are born preterm (<37 weeks gestation), representing the leading cause of mortality for children under the age of five. Whilst there is no single cause, factors such as maternal genetics, environmental interactions, and the vaginal microbiome have been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. Previous studies show that a vaginal microbiota dominated by is, in contrast to communities containing a mixture of genera, associated with full-term birth. However, this binary principle does not fully consider more nuanced interactions between bacterial strains and the host. Here, through a combination of analyses involving genome-sequenced isolates and strain-resolved metagenomics, we identify that strains from preterm pregnancies are phylogenetically distinct from strains from full-term pregnancies. Detailed analysis reveals several genetic signatures that distinguish preterm birth strains, including genes predicted to be involved in cell wall synthesis, and lactate and acetate metabolism. Notably, we identify a distinct gene cluster involved in cell surface protein synthesis in our preterm strains, and profiling the prevalence of this gene cluster in publicly available genomes revealed it to be predominantly present in the preterm-associated clade. This study contributes to the ongoing search for molecular biomarkers linked to preterm birth and opens up new avenues for exploring strain-level variations and mechanisms that may contribute to preterm birth.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • Horizon 2020 (Award H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2019-945385)
    • Principle Award Recipient: SaiRavi Chandra Nori
  • Science Foundation Ireland (Award 18/CRT/6214)
    • Principle Award Recipient: SaiRavi Chandra Nori
  • Irish Research Council (Award EPSPD/2016/25)
    • Principle Award Recipient: ConorFeehily
  • Science Foundation Ireland (Award 12/RC/2273_P2)
    • Principle Award Recipient: FionnualaM. McAuliffe
  • Science Foundation Ireland (Award 12/RC/2273_P2 and 16/SP/3827)
    • Principle Award Recipient: PaulD. Cotter
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2023-11-27
2024-07-20
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