Association of bactericidal activity of genital tract secretions with Escherichia coli colonization in pregnancy

Jeny P. Ghartey, Colleen Carpenter, Philip Gialanella, Charlotte Rising, Thomas C. McAndrew, Mohak Mhatre, Jessica Tugetman, Mark H. Einstein, Cynthia Chazotte, Betsy C. Herold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: Genital tract secretions exhibit bactericidal activity against Escherichia coli. We hypothesized that this defense may be modulated during pregnancy. Study Design: Secretions were collected by vaginal swab from 70 pregnant women (35-37 weeks' gestation) and 35 nonpregnant controls. We mixed E coli with swab eluants or control buffer and colonies enumerated to measure bactericidal activity. Cytokines, chemokines, and antimicrobial peptides were quantified by multiplex or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Pregnant women had significantly greater bactericidal activity, higher concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines, and lower levels of beta defensins compared to controls. Seven (10%) pregnant and 8 (23%) nonpregnant women were vaginally colonized with E coli; colonization was inversely associated with bactericidal activity. Conclusion: The soluble mucosal immune environment is altered in pregnancy. We speculate that the observed changes may protect against colonization and ascending infection and could provide a biomarker to identify pregnant women at risk for infectious complications including preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297.e1-297.e8
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Escherichia coli
  • cytokines/chemokines
  • defensins
  • pregnancy
  • soluble mucosal immunity in genital tract

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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