Research finds first oral bacteria linking a mother and her stillborn baby

Jan 21, 2010

Yiping Han, a researcher from Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, reports the first documented link between a mother with pregnancy-associated gum disease to the death of her fetus.

The findings are discussed in the article, "Term Stillbirth Caused by Oral Fusobacterium nucleatum," in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

An internet search in 2008 led a friend of a mother, who had just delivered a stillborn baby, to Han's research lab—one of the few in the world working on understanding the role variations of the oral bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, have on pre-term labor and stillbirths.

The mother delivered her fullterm baby at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., at 39 weeks and five days.

During the 35-year-old mother's pregnancy (her first), she told Han she experienced excessive gum bleeding, a symptom of pregnancy-associated gingivitis. Approximately 75 percent of pregnant women experience gum bleeding due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy.

"There is an old wives' tale that you lose a tooth for each baby, and this is due to the underlying changes during pregnancy," said Han, "but if there is another underlying condition in the background, then you may lose more than a tooth but a baby."

Bleeding associated with the gingivitis allowed the bacteria, normally contained to the mouth because of the body's defense system, to enter the blood and work its way to the placenta.

Even though the amniotic fluid was not available for testing, Han suspects from work with animal models that the bacteria entered the immune-free amniotic fluid and eventually ingested by the baby.

Han says normally a mother's immune system takes care of the bacteria in the blood before it reaches the placenta. But in this case, the mother also experienced an upper respiratory infection like a cold and low-grade fever just a few days before the stillbirth.

"The timing is important here because it fits the time frame of hematogenous (through the blood) spreading we observed in animals," Han said.

Postmortem microbial studies of the baby found the presence of F. nucleatum in the lungs and stomach. The baby had died from a septic infection and inflammation caused by bacteria.

After questioning the mother about her health during the pregnancy, Han arranged for her to visit a periodontist, who collected plaque samples from her teeth.

Using DNA cloning technologies, Han found a match in the bacterium in the mother's mouth with the bacterium in the baby's infected lungs and stomach.

Han also ruled out by testing bacteria from the vaginal and rectal areas, which did not show the presence of F. nucleatum.

"The testing strongly suggested the bacteria were delivered through the blood," Han said.

With preventative periodontal treatment and oral health care, the mother has since given birth to a healthy baby.

Han, who has spent the past decade taking her oral bacteria research from the lab to the bedside, says this points again to the growing importance of good oral health care.

In addition to this direct link from the mother to her baby, have been associated with heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.

The researcher suggests women, who are considering a , seek dental care to take care of any oral health problems before getting pregnant. If pregnant, she encourages expectant moms to practice good and alert the doctor to any gum bleeding.

Explore further: Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

Related Stories

Periodontal bacteria found in amniotic fluid

Jul 03, 2007

A study appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Periodontology found bacteria commonly found in the mouth and associated with periodontal diseases in the amniotic fluid of some pregnant women.

Inflammation may cause preterm labor and fetal deaths

Aug 08, 2007

Inflammation from bacterial infections is linked to preterm births and deaths, according to researchers from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine and the Case School of Medicine. They found if receptors ...

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

54 minutes ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...