Microbial signatures in amniotic fluid at preterm birth and association with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Birte Staude, Silvia Gschwendtner, Tina Frodermann, Frank Oehmke, Thomas Kohl, Susanne Kublik, Michael Schloter, Harald Ehrhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Microbiome dysbiosis can have long-lasting effects on our health and induce the development of various diseases. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a multifactorial disease with pre- and postnatal origins including intra-amniotic infection as main risk factor. Recently, postnatal pathologic lung microbiota colonization was associated with BPD. The objectives of this prospective observational cohort study were to describe differences in bacterial signatures in the amniotic fluid (AF) of intact pregnancies without clinical signs or risk of preterm delivery and AF samples obtained during preterm deliveries and their variations between different BPD disease severity stages. Methods: AF samples were collected under sterile conditions during fetal intervention from intact pregnancies (n = 17) or immediately before preterm delivery < 32 weeks (n = 126). Metabarcoding based approaches were used for the molecular assessment of bacterial 16S rRNA genes to describe bacterial community structure. Results: The absolute amount of 16S rRNA genes was significantly increased in AF of preterm deliveries and detailed profiling revealed a reduced alpha diversity and a significant change in beta diversity with a reduced relative abundance of 16S rRNA genes indicative for Lactobacillus and Acetobacter while Fusobacterium, Pseudomonas, Ureaplasma and Staphylococcus 16S rRNA gene prevailed. Although classification of BPD by disease severity revealed equivalent absolute 16S rRNA gene abundance and alpha and beta diversity in no, mild and moderate/severe BPD groups, for some 16S rRNA genes differences were observed in AF samples. Bacterial signatures of infants with moderate/severe BPD showed predominance of 16S rRNA genes belonging to the Escherichia-Shigella cluster while Ureaplasma and Enterococcus species were enriched in AF samples of infants with mild BPD. Conclusions: Our study identified distinct and diverse intrauterine 16S rRNA gene patterns in preterm infants immediately before birth, differing from the 16S rRNA gene signature of intact pregnancies. The distinct 16S rRNA gene signatures at birth derive from bacteria with varying pathogenicity to the immature lung and are suited to identify preterm infants at risk. Our results emphasize the prenatal impact to the origins of BPD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number248
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • 16S rRNA gene
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Enterococcus
  • Escherichia
  • Microbiome
  • Preterm infant
  • Prospective cohort study
  • Ureaplasma


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