Placental microbial-metabolite profiles and inflammatory mechanisms associated with preterm birth

J Clin Pathol. 2021 Jan;74(1):10-18. doi: 10.1136/jclinpath-2020-206536. Epub 2020 Aug 12.


There is growing emphasis on the potential significance of the placental microbiome and microbiome-metabolite interactions in immune responses and subsequent pregnancy outcome, especially in relation to preterm birth (PTB). This review discusses in detail the pathomechanisms of placental inflammatory responses and the resultant maternal-fetal allograft rejection in both microbial-induced and sterile conditions. It also highlights some potential placental-associated predictive markers of PTB for future investigation. The existence of a placental microbiome remains debatable. Therefore, an overview of our current understanding of the state and role of the placental microbiome (if it exists) and metabolome in human pregnancy is also provided. We critical evaluate the evidence for a placental microbiome, discuss its functional capacity through the elaborated metabolic products and also describe the consequent and more established fetomaternal inflammatory responses that stimulate the pathway to preterm premature rupture of membranes, preterm labour and spontaneous PTB.

Keywords: immunopathology; maternal-fetal; microbial pathogenic; placenta; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Placenta / immunology
  • Placenta / microbiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / immunology
  • Premature Birth / microbiology*