VCU awarded $7.4 million to research vaginal microorganisms

Photo courtesy of Vaginal Microbiome Consortium.

Harold Claros
Contributing Writer

VCU won $7.4 million in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health this week to research how certain microorganisms found in the vagina have led to alarming numbers of preterm labor and complications during pregnancy.

The grant will be used for a new project called Multi-omic Microbiome Study: Pregnancy Initiative. Gregory Buck, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the center for the study of biological complexity at VCU, will head MOMS-PI.

“This is important because it’s important for all women,” Buck said. “It’s a world issue and not just a VCU issue. With numbers reaching between 10 to 12 percent of births ending in preterm here in the United States it is a major issue.”

Of deaths within the first week of life that are not related to malformation, 28 percent are due to preterm birth, according to the World Health Organization.

In the U.S., preterm birth is the leading cause for infant mortality.  Newborn deaths in the U.S. ranked 41 out of 45 among industrialized countries, on par with Qatar and Croatia, according to researches of the World Health Organization.

Although infant mortality has dropped in the U.S. by 25 percent since 1990, one in eight babies are born prematurely.

“By having VCU receive this grant it puts us on an equal playing field with other schools and it places VCU on national visibility,” Buck said. “It’s important to show we can compete on a national level.”

With funding provided by both the NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, VCU will have the chance to further research the leading reasons of preterm births.

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