Adverse birth and neonatal outcomes disproportionately affect African American women and infants compared to those of other races/ethnicities. While significant research has sought to identify underlying factors contributing to these disparities, current understanding remains limited, constraining prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment. With the development of next generation sequencing techniques, the contribution of the vaginal microbiome to adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes has come under consideration. However, most microbiome in pregnancy studies include few African American women, do not consider the potential contribution of non-vaginal microbiome sites, and do not consider the effects of sociodemographic or behavioral factors on the microbiome.
We conceived our on-going, 5-year longitudinal study, Biobehavioral Determinants of the Microbiome and Preterm Birth in Black Women, as an intra-race study to enable the investigation of risk and protective factors within the disparate group. We aim to recruit over 500 pregnant African American women, enrolling them into the study at 8-14 weeks of pregnancy. Participants will be asked to complete questionnaires and provide oral, vaginal, and gut microbiome samples at enrollment and again at 24-30 weeks. Chart review will be used to identify pregnancy outcomes, infections, treatments, and complications. DNA will be extracted from the microbiome samples and sequencing of the V3 and V4 regions of the 16S rRNA gene will be conducted. Processing and mapping will be completed with QIIME and operational taxonomic units (OTUs) will be mapped to Greengenes version 13_8. Community state types (CSTs) and diversity measures at each site and time will be identified and considered in light of demographic, psychosocial, clinical, and biobehavioral variables.
This rich data set will allow future consideration of risk and protective factors, between and within groups of women, providing the opportunity to uncover the roots of the persistent health disparity experienced by African American families.