Detect common and dangerous complications of pregnancy through a blood test

Detect common and dangerous complications of pregnancy through a blood test

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Scientists from the University of Ningbo (China) have identified biomarkers that could provide an early warning system for three common and dangerous complications of pregnancy: preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis, as published in the journal ‘Frontiers’. in Cellular and Infection Microbiology´. The three …


Scientists from the University of Ningbo (China) have identified biomarkers that could provide an early warning system for three common and dangerous complications of pregnancy: preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis, as published in the journal ‘Frontiers’. in Cellular and Infection Microbiology´.

All three diseases are dangerous and their early diagnosis and treatment are essential to avoid poor results and lifelong sequelae. Its causes are not fully understood, nor is its relationship to the gut microbiome, which is affected by pregnancy and related diseases.

A team led by Dr. Siqian Chen, from the Faculty of Medicine Affiliated Hospital, decided to investigate whether specific changes in the microbiome—detected by levels of short-chain fatty acids, metabolites that occur after fermentation of the microbiota— could be used as biomarkers of pregnancy complications.

We analyzed and correlated the distribution of short-chain fatty acids during normal pregnancy and during three specific types of complicated pregnancy: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis. –explains the doctor Rongrong Xuan, lead author of the study–. The metabolic products of the intestinal flora, short-chain fatty acids, during pregnancy are closely related to these pregnancy complications.. They can be used as potential markers of pregnancy complications.“.


The team recruited 112 women who were divided into four groups: those who had healthy pregnancies and those who were diagnosed with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or intrahepatic cholestasis. To avoid confounding the analysis, we excluded patients who had previously been diagnosed with diabetes or related medical conditions, had any other gastrointestinal symptoms, or were taking medication that could affect the gut microbiome.

Chen and his colleagues took medical histories and blood samples, which were analyzed for levels of seven short-chain fatty acids: acetic, propionic, butyric, isobutyric, isovaleric, and hexanoic.

We used targeted metabolomics to analyze serum short-chain fatty acids from pregnant women with gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis, as well as healthy control women.Xuan explains.

Among short-chain fatty acids, they found several strong biomarker candidates, most notably isobutyric acid. All three groups of women who experienced the specified complications showed elevated levels of isobutyric acid. Patients with gestational diabetes and preeclampsia also had elevated levels of isovaleric, acetic, and propionic acids, the latter two potentially due to dyslipidemia, an imbalance of lipids in the blood.

In contrast, women diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis had much lower levels of all short-chain fatty acids except isobutyric, and their hexanoic acid levels were closely correlated with their disease.

The team suggested that the lower levels of short-chain fatty acids overall could be due to a lower abundance of flora in the gut microbiome, while hexanoic acid could be linked to inflammation.

Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality: biomarkers that could detect these conditions early and allow early treatment would save lives.

Although this research will need to be scaled up and tested for clinical use, the authors look forward to future work examining the fecal microbiome to determine how close the correlation between the microbiome and short-chain fatty acid levels is, as well as studies incorporating data about lifestyle factors that could affect the microbiome and analysis of the microbiota in the genital tract.

This is the first retrospective study to link short-chain fatty acids to the risks of three types of pregnancy complications. Xuan points out. Lays the foundation for the prevention of pregnancy-related diseases in the future“.

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