The Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacterium is a major cause of life-threatening invasive infection in newborns. GBS is known to colonize the vagina and invade the uterus during pregnancy, leading to infections of maternal and fetal tissues and potentially resulting in preterm labor and preterm delivery. African-American women are at the highest risk of delivering preterm, and their babies are at the greatest risk of invasive infections caused by GBS. The mechanisms of GBS vaginal colonization and tissue barrier degradation in the reproductive tract are largely unknown. Hyaluronidase is a GBS enzyme capable of digesting a family of molecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are abundant in female reproductive tissues. This enzyme is very likely to be required for the bacterium’s invasiveness. This project will investigate the potential mechanisms of hyaluronidase in reproductive colonization and the transition to invasive disease.
• Define the function of hyaluronidase in vaginal colonization
• Examine the role of hyaluronidase in tissue invasion during pregnancy
• Evaluate vaginal hyaluronidase activity as a risk factor for certain adverse pregnancy outcomes
Potential impact: This study may provide a biomarker indicating that a woman is at risk for outcomes such as preterm labor and preterm delivery.