Maternal-Fetal Microbiome

About the Program

The Maternal-Fetal Microbiome Research Division focuses on the application of molecular microbiology techniques and bioinformatics to identify the role of microorganisms in adverse pregnancy outcomes, especially spontaneous preterm birth. We are particularly interested in the dynamic interactions between microbiomes and host immunity in the vagina and intra-amniotic environment during pregnancy. Through participation in the Division's research, Maternal-Fetal Fellows gain hands-on experience in contemporary microbiome approaches, including automated high-throughput DNA extraction, next-generation sequencing technologies, comparative genomics, and multivariate data analysis.


  • To comprehensively and accurately characterize the human perinatal microbiome throughout gestation
  • To identify microbial etiologies of the great obstetrical syndromes, especially preterm labor with intact membranes and preterm prelabor rupture of membranes
  • To train Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Postdoctoral Fellows in the latest molecular microbiologic techniques

Research Highlights

  • Demonstrated that the human placenta does not have a microbial signal beyond that also evident in background technical controls in typical pregnancies
  • Using non-human primate and mouse models, further demonstrated that the mammalian fetus is not colonized by microbial communities in-utero
  • Characterized the molecular microbiology of the human upper genital tract outside pregnancy and demonstrated that the endometrium is not dominated by Lactobacillus spp.

Select Publications



DIRECTOR Kevin R. Theis, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, and the Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS