Study: Bacteria live even in healthy placentas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors have always believed that the uterus is a pretty sterile place for a fetus to develop. But now, they find that it's not so germ-free after all.

Surprising new research shows that a small but diverse community of bacteria lives in the placentas of healthy pregnant women. They're mostly varieties of "good germs" that exist in everybody. But the study also hints that the make-up of this colony plays a role in premature birth.

Researchers believe the different microbes play some sort of role. Some of them act like natural versions of medications that are used to stop pre-term contractions.

Dr. Lita Proctor of the National Institutes of Health says the study will "open up a whole new line of research on maternal and pediatric health."

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APPHOTO WX107: This handout photo provided by the Baylor College of Medicine, taken May 20, 2014, shows Dr. Kjersti Aagaard in her laboratory at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Aagaard's new research shows a small but diverse community of bacteria lives in the placentas of healthy pregnant women, and hints that the microbes may play a role in premature birth. (AP Photo/Agapito Sanchez, Baylor College of Medicine) (20 May 2014)

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