About this Research Topic
Preterm birth is a major societal, family and healthcare burden of global significance. World-wide, almost 15 million preterm babies are born annually. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death for children younger than five years in high-income countries and a major cause of global perinatal morbidity and mortality. Babies born preterm, particularly those born less than 32 weeks' gestation, have increased risk of morbidity and mortality, and surviving infants have increased likelihood of suffering serious, permanent disabilities including cerebral palsy. While the preterm birth rate in most developed countries is around 6-8%, in some regions and communities it is more than double this rate; hence, there are huge socioeconomic disparities in preterm birth-related consequences and costs.
Research into the aetiology of preterm birth over the past decades has elucidated the major causes of preterm birth, including the key role played by intrauterine inflammation and infection in the majority of early preterm births. However, translation of this knowledge into strategies and interventions to prevent preterm birth or minimise its impact on birth outcomes has been slow and difficult to implement and evaluate. While the last few decades have seen considerable investment in neonatal research and clinical care which has resulted in marked improvements in survival, this focus has not been matched by similar progress in prevention of prematurity.
But times are now changing. ‘Green-shoots’ are now appearing in this field and we are on the cusp of being able to translate advances in aetiological knowledge into mechanism-based therapeutic strategies. In addition, new risk factors have been identified that open the door to public health initiatives for preterm birth prevention. In this Frontiers Research Topic we present a coherent and directed overview of current research progress in preterm birth prevention, with a special focusing on prevention of those deliveries associated with intrauterine infection and inflammation. A multidisciplinary approach will be taken, drawing on expertise from the areas of immunology, microbiology, pharmacology, epidemiology, toxicology, cell biology and genetics.
Our overall goal is to provide insight and clarity on those interventions that can be implemented immediately or are on the horizon, as well as highlighting areas where research needs to be directed in order to achieve the most benefits.
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