Recent polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based studies estimate the prevalence of microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity (MIAC) to be ≥30-50% higher than that detected by cultivation-based methods. Some species that have been long implicated in causing MIAC remain among the common invaders (e.g. Ureaplasma spp., Mycoplasma spp., Fusobacterium spp. Streptococcus spp., Bacteroides spp. and Prevotella spp.). Yet we now know from studies based on PCR of the 16S ribosomal DNA that cultivation-resistant anaerobes belonging to the family Fusobacteriaceae (particularly Sneathia sanguinegens, and Leptotrichia spp.) are also commonly found in amniotic fluid. Other diverse microbes detected by PCR of amniotic fluid include as-yet uncultivated and uncharacterized species. The presence of some microbial taxa is associated with specific host factors (e.g. Candida spp. and an indwelling intrauterine device). It appears that MIAC is polymicrobial in 24-67% of cases, but the potential role of pathogen synergy is poorly understood. A causal relationship between diverse microbes, as detected by PCR, and preterm birth is supported by types of association (e.g. space, time and dose) proposed as alternatives to Koch's postulates for inferring causality from molecular findings. The microbial census of the amniotic cavity remains unfinished. A more complete understanding may inform future research directions leading to improved strategies for preventing, diagnosing and treating MIAC.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.