Original Research| Volume 5, ISSUE 3, 100837, March 2023

The gestational membrane microbiome in the presence or absence of intraamniotic infection

Published:January 06, 2023DOI:


      Data regarding the microbiome of the gestational membranes are emerging and conflicting. Shifts in the microbial communities in the setting of labor, rupture of membranes, and intraamniotic infection are yet to be understood.


      This study aimed to characterize the microbiome of the gestational membranes of women in labor or with ruptured membranes, including those with and without intraamniotic infection.


      Women with a singleton pregnancy at ≥28 weeks’ gestation undergoing unscheduled cesarean delivery in the setting of labor or rupture of membranes were included. Demographic and clinical variables were collected. We defined suspected intraamniotic infection by standard clinical criteria; placentae and gestational membranes were also reviewed for histologic evidence of infection. Sterile swabs were collected from membranes at the time of delivery. Bacteria were cultured from the swabs, and the isolates were sequenced. DNA extraction and 16S sequencing of the swabs were also performed. Bacterial taxonomy was assigned to each sequence. Alpha diversity indices and beta-diversity metrics were calculated to test for differences in microbial community diversity and composition between uninfected and infected groups. Differential abundance of bacteria between infected and uninfected groups was tested at the class, family, and genus level.


      Samples were collected from 34 participants. Clinical intraamniotic infection was diagnosed in 38% of participants, although 50% of placentae and membranes demonstrated histologic signs of infection. Of all samples, 68% grew bacteria on culture; this included 62% of the uninfected samples and 77% of the infected samples (P=.83). Multiple measures of alpha diversity were not significantly different between uninfected and infected groups. Similarly, analysis of beta diversity revealed that the microbial community was not significantly different between the uninfected and infected group. Several bacteria traditionally characterized as pathogenic, including Actinomyces and Streptococcus agalactiae, were identified in both infected and uninfected samples.


      The pathogenesis and clinical implications of intraamniotic infection remain poorly understood. Diverse bacteria are present in both infected and uninfected gestational membranes. A unique microbiologic signature may exist among the gestational membranes following labor or rupture of membranes, and further characterization of the pathogens specifically implicated in intraamniotic infection may allow for targeted therapy.

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