Research Digest

Lab notes: The vaginal microbiome can predict whether a woman is going to have a premature baby

A potential diagnostic tool to prevent premature birth or ensure sufficient care is at hand for a prematurely born baby.

Premature birth is a leading cause of death among newborn babies in India and around the world. The majority of death among children occur among neonates, that is, children within the first 28 days of their lives. While countries like India, Brazil and Nigeria have a preterm birth rate of about 12%, the rate is high even in the United States at close to 10%.

While the exact causes of premature delivery remain unknown, there are several risk factors like genetic predisposition, maternal habits like smoking and alcohol consumption and infections of the uterus and urinary tract. Different studies now show that the kinds of microorganisms present in a pregnant woman’s vagina can actually indicate whether she is at higher risk of having a premature delivery.

A research team at the bio-sciences division of Tata Consultancy Services Research recently published their analysis of 1,621 vaginal microbiome samples from four studies that had been previously conducted. These samples were of women from India, China and the United States. The researchers then mapped the diversity of the microbiomes and the week of pregnancy during which the samples were collected to the outcome of each pregnancy – whether delivery was at term or before term.

They found that women with preterm delivery outcomes tended to have less diversity in their vaginal microbiome during the first 15–20 weeks of pregnancy as compared to women with term delivery outcomes. After about 20 weeks of pregnancy, the vaginal microbiome diversity in both groups appear to converge and remain stable.

Another recent smaller study from the Washington University School of Medicine in the US of predominantly African American women also showed an association of between lower diversity of vaginal microbes of pregnant women and preterm birth. The team studied 77 pregnant women, 24 of whom delivered at least three weeks early. The researchers found that women whose pregnancies went to full term maintained a stable amount and diversity of vaginal microbes, while pregnant women who delivered their babies early experienced decreases in the amount and diversity of such microbes between the first and second trimesters.

The studies show that the vaginal microbiome diversity can be used as predictive tool for the risk of preterm birth and therefore help direct antenatal care, physical or pharmacological interventions and monitoring of women at risk. This could help cut down the risk of preterm birth or have suitable care for a prematurely born baby to ensure its survival.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.