Of course we should expect to find bacteria in a healthy placenta. It only makes sense. But this is interesting stuff - the possibility that the placental biome being out of whack playing a role in preterm birth. From Medical Xpress:
Surprising new research shows a small but diverse community of bacteria lives in the placentas of healthy pregnant women, overturning the belief that fetuses grow in a pretty sterile environment. These are mostly varieties of "good germs" that live in everybody. But the study also hints that the make-up of this microbial colony plays a role in premature birth.
We share our bodies with trillions of microbes—on the skin, in the gut, in the mouth. These communities are called our microbiome, and many bacteria play critical roles in keeping us healthy, especially those in the intestinal tract. Healthy newborns pick up some from their mother during birth, different bugs depending on whether they were delivered vaginally or by C-section. What about before birth?
Aagard's team earlier had studied the microbiome of the vagina, and learned that its composition changes when a woman becomes pregnant. The puzzle: The most common vaginal microbes weren't the same as the earliest gut bacteria that scientists were finding in newborns. What else, Aagaard wondered, could be "seeding" the infants' intestinal tract?
With colleagues from Baylor and Texas Children's Hospital, Aagaard analyzed 320 donated placentas, using technology that teases out bacterial DNA to evaluate the type and abundance of different microbes. The placenta isn't teeming with microbes—it harbors a low level, Aagaard stressed. Among them are kinds of E. coli that live in the intestines of most healthy people. But to Aagaard's surprise, the placental microbiome most resembled bacteria frequently found in the mouth, she reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The theory: Oral microbes slip into the mother's bloodstream and make their way to the placenta.
Why does the body allow them to stay? Aagaard said there appears to be a role for different microbes. Some metabolize nutrients. Some are toxic to yeast and parasites. Some act a bit like natural versions of medications used to stop preterm contractions, she said. In fact, among the 89 placentas that were collected after preterm births, levels of some of the apparently helpful bacteria were markedly lower, she said.