Evidence for contamination as the origin for bacteria found in human placenta rather than a microbiota.

PLoS One. 2020 Aug 10;15(8):e0237232. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237232. eCollection 2020. PMID: 32776951

Evidence for contamination as the origin for bacteria found in human placenta rather than a microbiota – PubMed


Until recently the in utero environment of pregnant women was considered sterile. Recent high-sensitivity molecular techniques and high-throughput sequencing lead to some evidence for a low-biomass microbiome associated with the healthy placenta. Other studies failed to reveal evidence for a consistent presence of bacteria using either culture or molecular based techniques. Comparing conflicting « placental microbiome » studies is complicated by the use of varied and inconsistent protocols. Given this situation, we undertook an evaluation of the in utero environment sterility using several controlled methods, in the same study, to evaluate the presence or absence of bacteria and to explain contradictions present in the literature. Healthy pregnant women (n = 38) were recruited in three maternity wards. Placenta were collected after cesarean section with or without Alexis® and vaginal delivery births. For this study we sampled fetal membranes, umbilical cord and chorionic villi. Bacterial presence was analyzed using bacterial culture and qPCR on 34 fetal membranes, umbilical cord and chorionic villi samples. Shotgun metagenomics was performed on seven chorionic villi samples. We showed that the isolation of meaningful quantities of viable bacteria or bacterial DNA was possible only outside the placenta (fetal membranes and umbilical cords) highlighting the importance of sampling methods in studying the in utero environment. Bacterial communities described by metagenomics analysis were similar in chorionic villi samples and in negative controls and were dependent on the database chosen for the analysis. We conclude that the placenta does not harbor a specific, consistent and functional microbiota.