Infections in pregnancy with Ureaplasma urealyticum have been associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes, such as early abortion, stillbirth, prematurity, and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Causality has been difficult to demonstrate secondary to the high prevalence of asymptomatic lower genital tract (LGT) colonization and culture data from inaccessible or potentially contaminated sites.
Between 1985 and 1989, 2461 second-trimester genetic amniocenteses were evaluated at the cytogenetics section of the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron. All were cultured for the genital mycoplasmas: Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum. A total of nine patients were positive, all for Ureaplasma urealyticum, with one patient excluded because of subsequent therapeutic abortion. In addition, complete follow-up data, such as indication for amniocentesis, serum alpha-fetoprotein levels, gestational age at parturition, and out- come of pregnancy, were available on 86 Ureaplasma-negative (U –) patients during an approximate 2-year span within the time-frame of the study. This was in part due to physician response to a questionnaire sent after amniocentesis.
Of the eight positive cultures, 100 per cent were associated with an adverse outcome, defined as fetal loss or premature delivery. This was significant compared with the U–group (p<0.001) with a more than eight times greater risk of adverse outcome. Six (75 per cent) resulted in spontaneous miscarriage within 4 weeks of amniocentesis and at less than 21 weeks' gestation. Two (25 per cent) delivered prematurely, with one (12.5 per cent) neonatal death at 24+ weeks. Histological examination of all eight placentae and the seven fetuses revealed a 100 per cent incidence of chorioamnionitis and pneumonia, respectively. In addition, in four of the five cases (80 per cent), cultures were positive for Ureaplasma urealyticum in pure culture from either placenta, fetal lung, or both tissues. The remaining case (20 per cent) was negative for aerobes, anaerobes, and mycoplasmas.
The study demonstrates a significant association and supports a causal relationship between isolation of Ureaplasma from mid-trimester amniotic fluid with fetal wastage and premature birth.