Blocking a key protein may help prevent premature labor, say researchers at Imperial College London in Britain.
They found that when Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) detects bacterial infection in pregnant women, it triggers inflammation, which appears to induce premature birth, BBC News reported.
But the researchers said they found a way to turn off this reaction.
"We are excited about the findings of this research, as we have now discovered how to block a key pathway which leads to premature birth," lead researcher Professor Philip Bennett told BBC News. "Although more research needs to be done, we believe this is a step forward in the development of treatments to prevent premature birth."
Premature labor is the major cause of death and disability among babies.