Preterm birth (PTB), birth at <37 weeks of gestation, is a significant global public health problem. World-wide, about 15 million babies are born preterm each year resulting in more than a million deaths of children. Preterm neonates are more prone to problems and need intensive care hospitalization. Health issues may persist through early adulthood and even be carried on to the next generation. Majority (70 %) of PTBs are spontaneous with about a half without any apparent cause and the other half associated with a number of risk factors. Genetic factors are one of the significant risks for PTB. The focus of this review is on single nucleotide gene polymorphisms (SNPs) that are reported to be associated with PTB.
A comprehensive evaluation of studies on SNPs known to confer potential risk of PTB was done by performing a targeted PubMed search for the years 2007-2015 and systematically reviewing all relevant studies. Evaluation of 92 studies identified 119 candidate genes with SNPs that had potential association with PTB. The genes were associated with functions of a wide spectrum of tissue and cell types such as endocrine, tissue remodeling, vascular, metabolic, and immune and inflammatory systems.
A number of potential functional candidate gene variants have been reported that predispose women for PTB. Understanding the complex genomic landscape of PTB needs high-throughput genome sequencing methods such as whole-exome sequencing and whole-genome sequencing approaches that will significantly enhance the understanding of PTB. Identification of high risk women, avoidance of possible risk factors, and provision of personalized health care are important to manage PTB.