Perinatal Microbiology

About the Program

  • The application of omics technologies and bioinformatics to interrogate and characterize the perinatal microbiome
  • Fellows gain hands-on experience in molecular microbiology
  • Cutting edge laboratory approaches
    • Automated DNA extraction from clinical samples
    • Next-generation sequencing technologies
    • Targeted phylogenetic marker gene and metagenomics surveys
    • Microbial comparative genomics
    • Multivariate data analysis
  • Clinical and molecular microbiology conferences


  • To comprehensively characterize the human perinatal microbiome across pregnancy
  • To identify and manage microbial etiologies of the great obstetrical syndromes
  • To train Medical and Postdoctoral Fellows in molecular microbiology

Research Questions

  • Elucidate and evaluate microbial biomarkers for the great obstetrical syndromes
  • Identify and clinically target relationships between perinatal microbiomes and host immune responses
  • Evaluate associations between microbial comparative genomics and intra-amniotic infection

Important Points & Discoveries

  • Demonstrated that the human placenta does not have a microbial signal beyond that also evident in background technical controls in typical pregnancies.
  • Efficaciously characterized the molecular microbiology of the human upper genital tract outside pregnancy and demonstrated that the endometrium is not dominated by Lactobacillus, as has been widely reported.
  • Showed that the majority of bacteria associated with intra-amniotic infection ascended into the amniotic cavity from the lower genital tract.

Selected Publications

  • Winters AD, Romero R, Gervasi MT, Gomez-Lopez N, Tran MR, Garcia-Flores V, Pacora P, Jung E, Hassan SS, Hsu C-D, Theis KR. Does the endometrial cavity have a molecular microbial signature? Scientific Reports. 2019; 9:9905.
  • Theis KR, Romero R, Winters AD, Greenberg JM, Gomez-Lopez N, Alhousseini A, Bieda J, Maymon E, Pacora P, Fettweis JM, Buck GA, Jefferson KK, Strauss III JF, Erez O, Hassan SS. Does the human placenta delivered at term have a microbiota? Results of cultivation, quantitative real-time PCR, 16S rRNA gene sequencing, and metagenomics. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2019; 220:267.e1-39.

Distinguished Faculty


Kevin R. Theis, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Wayne State University School of Medicine