Queen's University tackles pregnancy deaths in developing nations

  • Researchers at Queen's University Belfast are tackling the serious problem of maternal health in the developing world, where 99% of maternal and neonatal deaths occur.

    Death in pregnancy and childbirth may be a rare complication in developed nations, but in the developing world and countries with poorer healthcare systems they're unfortunately much more common. Around 99% of all maternal and neonatal deaths worldwide occur in developing nations, and the rate of neonatal mortality even in Africa is four times that of more developed areas.

    In addition to the rare complications that can occur in pregnancy and childbirth, both women and babies die frequently in developing countries as a result of infections that are difficult or costly to diagnose and treat. Many infections aren't caught early enough as diagnostic tests for them can take a long time and laboratory testing is often unavailable in areas with poor healthcare.

    Queen’s University researchers have now collaborated with firm HiberGene Diagnostics and the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust to develop a new rapid diagnostic test for Group B Strep (GBS) infections that can occur during labour and could quickly become life threatening. The new LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal AMPlification) technology uses a strategy called intrapartum testing to get quick and accurate results.

    The new test can identify the presence of a GBS infection within an hour of testing and has very high accuracy, making it suitable for use during labour so that a patient can go straight on antibiotics after giving birth when necessary. This will reduce the cases of missed infections and prevent unnecessary antibiotic use, making the sparse resources in developing nations go much further. The test is also simple enough to be used without a large lab.

    Principal Investigator Professor Mike Shields from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast commented on the research: "In developing countries, where access to laboratory testing is sparse, these tests could have a huge positive impact on the health of mothers and their babies. Detecting the GBS within the hour will mean that GBS positive women can be identified and given antibiotics to prevent transmission of GBS during delivery that could lead to serious infections including meningitis, sepsis and death."

    Source: Queen's University Belfast

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