Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: Lack of Evidence for Microbiota in the Placental and Fetal Tissues of Rhesus Macaques.

Authors: Theis, Kevin R; Romero, Roberto; Winters, Andrew D; Jobe, Alan H; Gomez-Lopez, Nardhy

Published In mSphere, (2020 05 06)

Abstract: The prevailing paradigm in obstetrics has been the sterile womb hypothesis. However, some are asserting that the placenta, intra-amniotic environment, and fetus harbor microbial communities. The objective of this study was to determine whether the fetal and placental tissues of rhesus macaques harbor bacterial communities. Fetal, placental, and uterine wall samples were obtained from cesarean deliveries without labor (∼130/166 days gestation). The presence of bacteria in the fetal intestine and placenta was investigated through culture. The bacterial burden and profiles of the placenta, umbilical cord, and fetal brain, heart, liver, and colon were determined through quantitative real-time PCR and DNA sequencing. These data were compared with those of the uterine wall as well as to negative and positive technical controls. Bacterial cultures of fetal and placental tissues yielded only a single colony of Cutibacterium acnes This bacterium was detected at a low relative abundance (0.02%) in the 16S rRNA gene profile of the villous tree sample from which it was cultured, yet it was also identified in 12/29 background technical controls. The bacterial burden and profiles of fetal and placental tissues did not exceed or differ from those of background technical controls. By contrast, the bacterial burden and profiles of positive controls exceeded and differed from those of background controls. Among the macaque samples, distinct microbial signals were limited to the uterine wall. Therefore, using multiple modes of microbiologic inquiry, there was not consistent evidence of bacterial communities in the fetal and placental tissues of rhesus macaques.IMPORTANCE Microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity (i.e., intra-amniotic infection) has been causally linked to pregnancy complications, especially preterm birth. Therefore, if the placenta and the fetus are typically populated by low-biomass microbial communities, current understanding of the role of microbes in reproduction and pregnancy outcomes will need to be fundamentally reconsidered. Could these communities be of benefit by competitively excluding potential pathogens or priming the fetal immune system for the microbial bombardment it will experience upon delivery? If so, what properties (e.g., microbial load and community membership) of these microbial communities preclude versus promote intra-amniotic infection? Given the ramifications of the in utero colonization hypothesis, critical evaluation is required. In this study, using multiple modes of microbiologic inquiry (i.e., culture, quantitative real-time PCR [qPCR], and DNA sequencing) and controlling for potential background DNA contamination, we did not find consistent evidence for microbial communities in the placental and fetal tissues of rhesus macaques.

PubMed ID: 32376701 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: No MeSH terms associated with this publication

to Top