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Point-of-Care Tests can Save Millions of Unborn Babies


Point-of-Care Tests can Save Millions of Unborn Babies

(epharmanews)- Most residents of rural areas in poorer and middle-income countries often do not have access to diagnostic laboratories, which mean that they often fail to diagnose some diseases before they develop.

A group of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine developed a simple, cost effective, point-of-care blood tests (POCTs) which do not require electricity, a laboratory, or highly trained staff, are now available and widely used for several common infections in those countries.

The research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sought to determine the feasibility of introducing new point-of-care-tests for pre-natal syphilis screening into a range of different countries. The project has shown that these new simple tests can be effectively introduced into a range of locations, from urban areas in China and Peru, to remote villages in East Africa, and even more remote indigenous populations deep in the Amazon rain forest - and that the lives of up to one million children could be saved every year if they were rolled out globally.

Estimates show that nearly two million pregnant women are infected with syphilis every year and that more than half of these pass the infection to then fetus. Syphilis is associated with spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery, low birth weight, and perinatal death if untreated during pregnancy. It causes about 400,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths a year in Africa alone.

Unlike traditional syphilis tests, this new POCT requires little training, and it can be used on whole blood, plasma, or serum, and does not require laboratory equipment, cold storage, or electricity.

Professor David Mabey of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and one of the key authors of the study, said: "Policies for screening pregnant mothers for syphilis have been in place in most countries for years, yet over 70% of pregnant women with syphilis are not screened. This is, in part, due to logistical challenges with current testing methods, which require electricity, refrigeration and laboratory equipment.

"There has been significant progress in reducing mortality in under-fives, but the number of newborn babies who die in their first month of life is not declining. 2015 is only three years away and many countries will not achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 unless they can reduce neonatal mortality rates. Syphilis is one of the major causes of stillbirths and newborn deaths, yet it can be treated easily and cheaply if detected early enough.

"Screening pregnant women for syphilis is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available. If all pregnant women were screened, and those who tested positive were treated with one dose of penicillin before 28 weeks' gestation, no stillbirths or neonatal deaths would be due to syphilis. It's as simple as that. These new rapid tests are easy to use, affordable and give a result in just 15 minutes at the cost of less than £1 per women screened."

Lead author Professor Rosanna Peeling, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "By working closely with each of the governments prior to and during the research, we've been able to bring about rapid changes in policy within each of the countries. This has happened remarkably quickly, given that the project was only completed in 2011.

"We hope that the clear results of working closely with governments and decision-makers from an early stage in our project may lead to other similar studies being given high priority within the health system in future, thus overcoming the well-known lag between research and action through policy change."

As a result of this study, the Ministries of Health in Peru, Uganda and Zambia are procuring Point-Of-Care-Tests (POCTs) for syphilis and supporting national trainers as part of a national rollout plan to support rapid syphilis testing of pregnant women across the country.

The Ministry of Health in Brazil announced that syphilis screening for remote populations who previously have never had access to it would be one of the three main priorities for the national program for the control of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections.


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Prepared by: Nessrin Biram


Source :

ePharmaNews






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