Despite great medical advances in preventing maternal and infant mortality in the past century, one issue remains unresolved: why do so many women give birth prematurely? A major new field of human microbiome studies has begun to shed light on the impact of microbes (of both the commensal and pathogen varieties) on pregnancy outcomes. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing and metagenomic analysis have revealed that maternal microbiomes at a variety of niches including the oral, vaginal, gut, cervical, and even the placenta itself govern pregnancy outcomes. In this review, we describe how alterations in the microbial biomasses impact preterm birth and we discuss the major research questions concerning the cause and/or interdependent relationships between microbiome, infection, and preterm delivery.
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