With pre-term births a major international health problem, scientists are reporting an advance toward developing a much-needed, noninvasive test for predicting when pregnant women are about to deliver early. Oregon Health Science University's Srinivasa R. Nagalla and colleagues there and at the University of Washington in Seattle, report the discovery of protein biomarkers that could lead to such a test. The work is reported in the April 9 issue of ACS' Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.
In the report, researchers explain that spontaneous preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) have increased steadily during the last 25 years and now account for 70 percent to 80 percent of neonatal deaths. Development of a rapid diagnostic test for pre-term labor thus would be a major advance, they added.
The researchers analyzed cervical-vaginal fluid from 18 women, including six with spontaneous preterm birth, six with preterm labor, and six controls. They identified proteins that were present in women with preterm deliveries that could eventually serve as biomarkers for the condition. While emphasizing that the finding should be confirmed in a larger group of women, the study terms it an important step toward identifying women at high risk for preterm birth.