Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 26;18(7):3436. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18073436.
Preterm birth (PTB), defined as birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation, is a major cause of infant morbidity and mortality. Inflammation is an important component in the physiopathologic pathway leading to PTB but results from cross-sectional studies on associations between inflammation, as measured by cytokines, and PTB are inconsistent. Timing of cytokine measurement during pregnancy varies between studies and may contribute to inconsistent findings. We investigated the effects of timing on associations between 16 cervico-vaginal cytokines (Eotaxin, IL-10, IL-12p40, IL-17, IL-1RA, sIL-2rα, IL-1a, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6, IP-10, MCP-1, MIP-1α, MIP-1β, TNFα, and VEGF) and PTB among 90 women throughout pregnancy. We used logistic regression to compare associations between concentrations of cervico-vaginal cytokines from periods in pregnancy and PTB. Trimester 1 cytokines had the strongest positive associations with PTB; for example, OR = 1.76 (95% confidence interval: 1.28, 2.42) for IL-6. Second and third trimester associations were weaker but largely positive. IL-1α was the only cytokine with a negative association (trimesters 2, 3 and overall pregnancy). Strong first trimester associations between cytokines and PTB suggest that measuring cytokines early in pregnancy may hold promise for early identification of PTB risk. Variations in cytokine measurement during pregnancy may contribute to inconsistencies among studies.