Objective: Gastric fluid microbes were examined in preterm infants at birth to assess their influence on the postnatal outcome.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Level III neonatal intensive care unit.
Patients: A total of 103 premature neonates with a gestational age of less than 32 weeks.
Main outcome measure: Gastric fluid microbes were identified by analysis of bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene. Additionally, the urease gene of Ureaplasma species was detected by PCR of gastric fluid obtained at birth and/or endotracheal aspirate from ventilated preterm infants. The association between detection of microbes and bronchopulmonary dysplasia was investigated through assessment from clinical features and by a lung injury marker (KL-6).
Results: Forty-two of 103 gastric fluid specimens were positive for microbes. Ureaplasma species were detected in 23 of the 42 (55%) gastric fluid specimens. All infants with Ureaplasma species in tracheal aspirate fluid also had positive gastric fluid specimens. Compared to infants negative for gastric fluid microbes, infants positive for microbes had higher rates of maternal chorioamnionitis (18% vs 78%), premature rupture of membranes (11% vs 55%), severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia (1.6% vs 14%) and showed higher plasma KL-6 levels during the initial 4 weeks of life.
Conclusion: Detection of gastric fluid microbes was correlated well with antenatal infection and severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Detection of Ureaplasma species in gastric fluid was associated with subsequent airway colonization. These results suggest that antenatal exposure of the immature fetus to microbes may cause lung injury and promote the onset of bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
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