Pregnancy Complication And Child Asthma
Common complication during pregnancy may predispose children born prematurely to asthma, a large study reports Tuesday.
The condition, chorioamnionitis, is inflammation of the fetal membranes and amniotic fluid from a bacterial infection. It is thought to be linked to more than half of all preterm births, before 37 weeks' gestation, scientists write in Tuesday's Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The infection may have ascended to the uterus from the mother's genital tract or traveled through her bloodstream from a more remote site, such as her gums or upper respiratory tract, says lead author Darios Getahun, a scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena.
In animals, chorioamnionitis has been shown to cause lung and brain damage in offspring, Getahun says. Scientists also have found lung scarring in infants who died after pregnancies complicated by the condition.
Getahun and his co-authors analyzed electronic health records for all singleton children born at Kaiser's Southern California hospitals in 1991 to 2007, a total of 397,852. Of those, 28,869 were preterm.
Among children born full-term, chorioamnionitis wasn't linked to an increased risk of being diagnosed with asthma by age 8. But among those born prematurely, the condition was associated with double the risk of childhood asthma in blacks, a 70 percent increase in Latinos and a 66 percent increase in whites. The researchers observed these differences even after accounting for other possible risk factors such as whether the mother smoked or had asthma herself. Only in Asian/Pacific Islanders preemies did chorioamnionitis not seem to make a difference in childhood asthma risk.
Getahun speculates that chorioamnionitis wasn't related to asthma risk in full-term children because their mothers might not have had it as long as those born prematurely. But, he adds, his team didn't have information about how early in their pregnancy women were diagnosed.
Diagnosing the condition is tricky, Getahun says, because symptoms _ fever in the mother, tenderness or pain in the uterus, foul-smelling amniotic fluid _ aren't definitive, and some women never exhibit symptoms. Getahun's team is now trying to find a marker in the mother's blood that would signify her symptoms are because of chorioamnionitis.
A study of 1,096 children published in 2008 found a higher risk of wheezing by age 2 in preemies whose mothers had had chorioamnionitis.