Postal recruitment for genetic studies of preterm birth: A feasibility study

Oonagh E Keag*, Lee Murphy, Aoibheann Bradley, Naomi Deakin, Sonia Whyte, Jane E Norman, Sarah J Stock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Preterm birth (PTB) represents the leading cause of neonatal death. Large-scale genetic studies are necessary to determine genetic influences on PTB risk, but prospective cohort studies are expensive and time-consuming. We investigated the feasibility of retrospective recruitment of post-partum women for efficient collection of genetic samples, with self-collected saliva for DNA extraction from themselves and their babies, alongside self-recollection of pregnancy and birth details to phenotype PTB.

Methods: 708 women who had participated in the OPPTIMUM trial (a randomised trial of progesterone pessaries to prevent PTB [ISRCTN14568373]) and consented to further contact were invited to provide self-collected saliva from themselves and their babies. DNA was extracted from Oragene OG-500 (adults) and OG-575 (babies) saliva kits and the yield measured by Qubit. Samples were analysed using a panel of Taqman single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assays. A questionnaire designed to meet the minimum data set required for phenotyping PTB was included. Questionnaire responses were transcribed and analysed for concordance with prospective trial data.

Results: Recruitment rate was 162/708 (23%) for self-collected saliva samples and 157/708 (22%) for questionnaire responses. 161 samples from the mother provided DNA with median yield 59.0µg (0.4-148.9µg). 156 samples were successfully genotyped (96.9%). 136 baby samples had a median yield 11.5µg (0.1-102.7µg); two samples failed DNA extraction. 131 baby samples (96.3%) were successfully genotyped. Concordance between self-recalled birth details and prospective birth details ranged from 55 – 99%, median 86%. The highest rates of concordance were found for mode of birth (154/156 [99%]), smoking status (151/157 [96%]) and ethnicity (149/156 [96%]).

Conclusion: This feasibility study demonstrates that self-collected DNA samples from mothers and babies were sufficient for genetic analysis but yields were variable. Self-recollection of pregnancy and birth details was inadequate for accurately phenotyping PTB, highlighting the need for alternative strategies for investigating genetic links with PTB.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalWellcome Open Research
Volume(2020) 5
Issue number26
Early online date12 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2020


  • premature birth
  • fetal membranes
  • premature rupture
  • obstetric labour
  • premature
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • phenotype
  • DNA


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