News Releases

Regan Awarded Grant from National Institute of Nursing Research to Explore Factors Consistent with Preterm Birth

October 17, 2013

Baltimore, Md. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every nine babies born in the United States are premature.  Armed with a $1.8 million research grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), Mary Regan, PhD, RN, associate professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), and Jacques Ravel, PhD, professor, Institute of Genomic Science, will examine the effect of diet on vaginal microbiota and preterm birth (PTB).

Regan and Ravel, in collaboration with researchers from UMSON and NINR, will investigate this health issue by studying 400 pregnant women from Baltimore City neighborhoods that have higher than average PTB rates. PTB is the birth of an infant prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy and a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children. The causes of PTB are not well understood, but are thought to originate from biological and/or social factors such as eating habits, personal health behaviors, prenatal care, and socio economic status. Recent studies have shown that the type of microorganisms, including bacteria, found in the vagina have been associated with PTB. However, research also shows that the composition, frequency, and duration of abnormalities in the types of vaginal microorganisms may be affected by these same biological and demographic factors that are known predictors of PTB.

"Preterm birth is highest among African-American and Hispanic women and is strongly associated with low-socio economic status. Baltimore is an excellent environment in which to conduct this study because it provides us unique access to those groups," Regan said. “Participants will be enrolled in week 20 of their pregnancy and followed through to birth. During that time, they will collect vaginal swabs and report information about their diet, vaginal, and prenatal health behaviors each week using a Web-based application specifically designed for the study.”

Findings from the study are expected to determine if modifying social and biological behavioral factors has any influence on the composition, frequency, and duration of change in the vaginal microorganisms during pregnancy and if there is any association with PTB.

For information on this study, email Regan at

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The University of Maryland School of Nursing, founded in 1889, is one of the oldest and largest nursing schools, and is ranked eleventh nationally. Enrolling more than 1,700 students in its baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs, the School develops leaders who shape the profession of nursing and impact the health care environment