Acute chorioamnionitis is the principal antecedent of premature birth and an important contributor to specific neonatal and other complications that may extend throughout subsequent life. A large number of studies have addressed surrogate markers of in-utero inflammation including cytokines, chemokines, pathogen-associated molecular patterns, and elicited host proteins. However, chorioamnionitis means inflammation occurring within the chorioamnion and the only practical direct measure available to assess this finding in most placentas is histopathology. The maternal and fetal inflammatory response to the presence of organisms within the placental membranes, so-called histologic chorioamnionitis, is the focus of this review. The issues addressed are the nature and origin of the eliciting antigen, mode of spread to the placenta, general characteristics of placental immunity, and a specific characterization of the spectrum of pathologic lesions observed in placentas with membrane infection.
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