Could a simple blood test improve care for preterm infants in low income countries?

February 23, 2017

Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of death and illness in newborns around the world. Specialized care can improve the health of preterm infants, but in countries without access to prenatal ultrasounds, it can be difficult to know if a child is born preterm. Drs. Kumanan Wilson, Steven Hawken and their colleagues have created an algorithm that can determine the gestational age of a child at birth, based on a heel prick blood sample. The algorithm combines birth weight, sex and the levels of three molecules that can be measured fairly easily in the blood. In a large cohort of Ontario infants, the algorithm was able to accurately determine true gestational age within two weeks in 66 percent of babies who were small for their gestational age, compared to 37 percent when relying on birth weight and sex alone. The team is currently evaluating the algorithm’s performance in infants born in Bangladesh, Zambia, The Philippines and China. This work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published in EBioMedicine,a new journal from The Lancet and Cell Press.

Authors: Kumanan Wilson, Steven Hawken, Malia SQ Murphy, Katherine M Atkinson, Beth K Potter, Ann Sprague, Mark Walker, Pranesh Chakraborty, Julian Little.

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