No More Needle Testing For Premature Babies Thanks To Irish Scientists

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have pioneered a new needle-free test to take the sting out of medicine testing in premature babies. The research will not only lead to greater accuracy in prescribing, but will also significantly reduce the trauma of such tests for newborn infants and their families. The latter alone ought to entitle them to a medal from grateful parents.

In the first published research project worldwide on this new approach to testing medicines in children, the findings were announced in leading US medical journal Pediatrics, though I would have thought a banner heading in the Lancet might be more appropriate. The study, which involves the use of blood spots obtained from a simple heel-prick, took place in the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s.

Principal Investigator, Queen’s Professor of Pharmacy Practice James McElnay said: “This type of testing will obviously reduce the discomfort of medicine testing in these vulnerable patients. What is even more important, however, is that it will ensure maximum accuracy in calculating the most appropriate dose of a medicine for a sick child.

“Some 80 per cent of infants in intensive care in hospitals receive medicines which have not been appropriately tested or licensed for use in such young patients, and the dosage is usually calculated based on licensed doses for adults or older children. Sizable blood samples are then required to measure the concentrations of the drug in the infant’s bloodstream. Our work opens up opportunities for using the same approach to study other medicines which are used in this manner in children, and we are currently studying a number of these.”

It has always been a concern that there is so little known about the proper dosage for premature children and if this new development eradicates that uncertainty it is even more important.

The Queen’s study involved the antibiotic metronidazole. The research team used single drops of blood collected on blotting paper from premature infants who were receiving the medicine as part of their routine care. The ‘spots’ were dried, analysed in the University’s School of Pharmacy, and the results used to develop dosage guidance for doctors.

Premature babies benefit from Omega 3

March 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Vitamins & Supplements


Having a premature baby can be a time of great worry, and although medical knowledge has hugely increased the survival rate, there are still potential health problems for such babies that can affect how they develop. The major concern is for their mental development as they may be slower than babies that go to full term, as well as not having fully developed lungs and digestive systems.

A clinical trial in Australia however offers a simple solution that could help, and although it has only been running for 18 months they are claiming interesting results. For adults, the benefits of omega-3 are well known but so far no one has thought to see if they could also help such young babies. The Australian study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and carried out at the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

They used normal omega-3 supplements from fish oil that you would buy in any health store and gave them to 272 nursing mothers of premature babies. They were trying to duplicate the amount of omega-3 that full-term babies usually receive in the womb during the third trimester of pregnancy and that premature babies miss out. They found that just 6 pills a day improved the cognitive ability of the babies when tested 18 months after birth.

Interestingly, the benefit seemed to apply solely to girls as the mothers of boys who took the supplements didn’t see any substantial difference. The doctors believe however that this is not due to a problem with the supplements but to the fact that boys generally develop slightly later than girls so a test over a longer period may show the same results. Differences are really going to persist.

BUT please don’t think that getting your omega-3′s naturally from fish and seafood during pregnancy is a precautionary measure as most doctors advise pregnant women to avoid these foods. However, it certainly couldn’t hurt to take the supplements and if it doesn’t improve the baby’s health it will certainly help the mother’s.