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African-American Mothers More Likely to Deliver Prematurely

eterm Birth Research at the School of Medicine.

'We also found that subsequent preterm births to a mother happen at the same week as her original preterm birth. These findings highlight the importance of race, particularly after correction for other risk factors, and suggest a probable genetic component that may underlie the public health problem presented by the racial disparity in preterm birth.'

The genes likely involved in pregnancy and the birth process also impact other aspects of human health, said Muglia, director of the division of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at St. Louis Children's Hospital. So far, researchers have found a link between genes that play a role in human birth and those that determine the response to infection, but they are still working to pinpoint causes of preterm birth.

'By understanding specifically what results in this health disparity in African-American women, we can gain a tremendous amount of insight into a normal birth process in respect to preterm birth,' said Muglia. 'If we can work to reduce the frequency of preterm birth in the African-American population, which is almost twice as great as in the Caucasian population, I think we will make an enormous impact on human health.'

Although other researchers have studied this phenomenon, this analysis further clarifies the risk of premature birth in African-American women and the probable genetic link.

'This study helps set the stage for identification of novel genomic strategies to understand fundamental mechanisms responsible for the epidemic of prematurity in the United States,' said F. Sessions Cole, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for children's health at the School of Medicine and director of the Division of Pediatric Newborn Medicine and chief medical officer at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

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