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Uterine Infection in Pregnant Women Linked
With Asthma in Preterm Infants, Study Finds

A study published Tuesday in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine suggests that preterm infants born to women who had a uterine inflammation known as chorioamnionitis face an increased likelihood of developing asthma by age eight, USA Today reports (Rubin, USA Today, 2/2). Chorioamnionitis, a bacterial infection, affects roughly 8% of pregnancies and, by some estimates, is linked with more than 50% of preterm birth -- those before 37 weeks' gestation. Symptoms of the infection include a fever higher than 100.4 degrees, high maternal or fetal heart rate, uterine tenderness, foul-smelling amniotic fluid and elevated white blood-cell counts (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 2/2). However, the condition can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are not definitive and might not occur in some women who have the infection, according to lead author Darios Getahun, a scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation (USA Today, 2/2).

Getahun's team reviewed electronic health records for 397,852 births in Southern California from 1991 to 2007 (Allen, Reuters, 2/1). Black children whose mothers gave birth before 37 weeks and had chorioamnionits were 50% more likely to develop asthma by age eight. The likelihood was more pronounced for Hispanic and white babies, who were 70% and 66% more likely to develop asthma, respectively. The increases persisted after researchers accounted for other asthma risk factors. The study found no link between higher asthma rates and chorioamnionitis in full-term births or preterm births among Asians or Pacific Islanders. Getahun's team is now trying to identify a marker in the woman's blood that could verify if symptoms are caused by chorioamnionitis (USA Today, 2/2).

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