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Lesson 10 – Medical English: Bacteria linked to premature birth

A major cause of premature birth – where waters break too soon, triggering labour – may be caused by specific bacteria, according to research.

The findings could lead to screening and possible treatment for women at risk of early labour, says a US team.

The study, published in the journalPLOS ONE, suggests certain bacteria may lead to thinning of the membranes around the baby, causing them to tear.

Early rupture of membranes causes almost a third of all premature births.

The membranes that make up the sac that holds the baby usually break at the start of labour.

 “If we think that certain bacteria are associated with premature rupturing of the membranes, we can screen for this bacteria early in pregnancy”

Amy MurthaDuke University School of Medicine

If a mother’s waters break before the baby has reached full term, the medical term is preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM).

If this happens early, before contractions start, it can – but does not always – trigger early labour.

Researchers atDuke University School of Medicinehave found high numbers of bacteria at the site where membranes rupture, which are linked with the thinning of membranes.

If the bacteria are the cause rather than the consequence of early membrane rupture, it may be possible to develop new treatments or screen for women at risk, they say.

Study author Amy Murtha, associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Duke University School of Medicine, said: “For instance, if we think that certain bacteria are associated with premature rupturing of the membranes, we can screen for this bacteria early in pregnancy.

“We then might be able to treat affected women with antibiotics and reduce their risk for PPROM.

“Our research is several steps away from this, but it gives us opportunities to explore potential targeted therapeutic interventions, which we lack in obstetrics.”

Missing link

The researchers examined membrane samples in 48 women who had just given birth, including those with PPROM, those who had an early birth for other reasons, and those with babies born at full term.

The researchers found bacteria were present in all membranes, but the more bacteria present, the thinner the membranes, especially in women with PPROM.

Commenting on the study, Dr Patrick O’Brien, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it had been known for a while that bacterial infection was responsible for PPROM in some women.

He told BBC News: “We’ve long suspected and known that bacteria are involved in a large proportion of these women. What we really need to know now is to understand the detailed mechanism of how bacteria cause the waters to break.”

Duncan Wilbur, head of communications at the UK premature baby charityBliss, added: “We welcome any research that helps us better understand the causes of preterm birth and identify those women at high risk.

“This study’s findings are really interesting and more research needs to be done to find treatments that will help prevention of premature birth.

                          taken with kind permission from

Words in news

to trigger – to set off, to set into motion, to cause a strong reaction or response

labour – delivery of a baby, childbirth,birth,partus, orparturitionis the culmination of a period ofpregnancywith the expulsion of one or more newborninfantsfrom a woman‘suterus. The process of normal childbirth is categorized in three stages of labour: the shortening anddilationof thecervix, descent and birth of theinfant, and birth of theplacenta.

findings – finds, discoveries, results of research , data collated

screening –a strategy used in apopulationto identify an unrecognizeddiseasein individuals withoutsignsorsymptoms. This can include individuals with pre-symptomatic or unrecognized symptomatic disease. As such, screening tests are somewhat unique in that they are performed on persons apparently in good health.

thinning – getting thinner and thinner

to tear – to break into pieces, to rip , to break, to crack, to rupture

to make up – to constitute , to compose, to build, to construct

the sac- thegestational sac(orgestation sac) is the only availableintrauterinestructure that can be used to determine if an intrauterinepregnancy(IUP) exists, until theembryois identified.

Onultrasound, it is an anechoic (dark) space surrounded by a hyperchoic (white) rim.

It issphericalin shape, and usually located in the upper uterine fundus.

full term -pregnancy- the entire duration of pregnancy

obstetrics –the branch of medicine that deals with the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the recuperative period following delivery. Obstetrics(from theLatinobstare, “to stand by”) is the medical specialty dealing with the care of all women’s reproductive tracts and their children duringpregnancy(prenatal period),childbirthand thepostnatalperiod. Many obstetricians are alsogynecologists, meaning they perform in both specialties. In the United States, these physicians are commonly referred to as OB/GYNs.

gynaecology – gynaecologyorgynecologyis the medical practice dealing with the health of the female reproductive system(uterus,vagina, andovaries). Literally, outside medicine, it means “the science ofwomen“. Its counterpart isandrology, which deals with medical issues specific to the male reproductive system.

Almost all modern gynaecologists are alsoobstetricians(seeobstetrics and gynaecology). In many areas, the specialties of gynaecology and obstetrics overlap.

premature – born before the full duration of pregnancy

affected women – infected or attacked by disease

therapeutic-related to the healing of disease

membrane – the ‘cell membrane’(also known as theplasma membraneorcytoplasmic membrane) is abiological membranethat separates theinteriorof all cells from the outside environment. The cell membrane isselectively permeableto ions and organic molecules and controls the movement of substances in and out of cells.

sample- a. a portion, piece, or segment that is representative of a whole. b. an entity that is representative of a class; a specimen.

born at full term– born after 9 months of pregnancy

charity acharitable organizationis a type ofnon-profit organization(NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on non-profit andphilanthropic goalsas well as social well-being (e.g.charitable,educational,religious, or other activities serving thepublic interestor common good).

The legal definition of charitable organization (and of Charity) varies according to the country and in some instances the region of the country in which the charitable organization operates. The regulation, tax treatment, and the way in which charity law affects charitable organizations also varies.

Financial figures (e.g., tax refund, revenue from fundraising, revenue from sale of goods and services or revenue from investment) are important indicators to assess the financial sustainability of a charity, especially tocharity evaluators. This information can impact a charity’s reputation with donors and societies, and thus, the charity’s financial gains.

bliss- happiness

preterm birth – premature birth of a baby

prevention –preventive healthcareorpreventive careconsists of measures taken to prevent diseases,(or injuries) rather thancuringthem ortreatingtheir symptoms. This contrasts in method withcurativeandpalliativecare, and in scope withpublic healthmethods (which work at the level of population health rather than individual health).

                         taken with kind permission from

lesson prepared by Angloland skola ||


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