Oral bacteria linked to stillbirth
CLEVELAND, OH, USA: Researchers at the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine reported the first documented link between a mother with pregnancy-associated gum disease to the death of her fetus. The studies findings will be discussed in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Approximately 75 per cent 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 Yiping Han, lead researcher of the study. “But if there is another underlying condition in the background, then you may lose more than a tooth but a baby.”
Due to pregnancy-associated gingivitis, Fusobacterium nucleatum, a bacteria commonly found in the mouth, entered the blood and worked its way to the placenta. Han was able to match the bacterium found in the mother’s mouth with the bacterium in the baby’s infected lungs and stomach.
Normally a mother’s immune system takes care of the bacteria in the blood before it reaches the placenta. In this case, the mother had experienced an upper respiratory infection and a low-grade fever just a few days before the stillbirth. The baby died from a septic infection and inflammation caused by the bacteria.
The study underlines the growing importance of good oral health care. In addition to this direct link from the mother to her baby, oral bacteria have been associated with heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
(Edited by Claudia Salwiczek, DTI)