Objective: To determine the fetal cortisol response to intrauterine infection.
Study design: 16s ribosomal RNA genes or the urease genes of Ureaplasma spp were identified by the polymerase chain reaction in intrauterine samples. Cord blood cortisol, interleukin 6 (IL6) and IL8 were measured in samples from 31 infants born at <32 weeks gestation.
Results: 13 infants (median gestation 30 weeks, birth weight 1350 g) had at least one positive intrauterine sample for microbial genes and 18 infants (31 weeks, 1320 g) did not. The cord blood cortisol concentration was significantly higher in fetuses exposed to intrauterine infection and significantly increased in fetuses/mothers presenting in preterm labour with intact membranes compared with infants delivered by elective prelabour caesarean section (p<0.05). The cord blood cortisol concentration was increased in the mothers with prelabour premature rupture of membranes but this was not significant compared with the caesarean section group. The cord blood cortisol concentration was significantly increased in the presence of chorioamnionitis or funisitis and was moderately correlated with cord blood IL6 (r = 0.64, p<0.01) and IL8 (r = 0.52, p<0.01).
Conclusions: In this study, cord blood cortisol was increased in the colonised group compared with non-colonised infants. It is unclear if infants born following prelabour premature rupture of the membranes mount an adequate anti-inflammatory response.
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