In an attempt to combat epilepsy, the fourth most common neurological disorder that affects people of all ages, British and Indian experts have reportedly launched a £3.4-million study on babies with brain injuries in India.
The experts are from various fields like obstetrics, neonatology, neurology, electrophysiology, public health, and health economics.
The Prevention of Epilepsy by Reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT) project, said to be the world’s largest study, was launched in the Indian city of Bengaluru this week. It is being led by the Imperial College London.
To understand brain development in newborns, around 80,000 pregnant women will be recruited for the study to be carried out over the next two years. Three hospitals in southern India — Bangalore Medical College, Madras Medical College, and Calicut Medical College – have been selected for this project, Indian news web portal The Print reported.
Since injuries to the brain are one of the leading causes of epilepsy in infants, the experts will focus their research on neuro-physiological investigations with the help of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), video electroencephalography (to assess brain activity in babies), and neuro-developmental assessments until 18 months.
There are half a million epilepsy cases reported in India annually and nearly a fifth (87,000) of them are caused by perinatal (time before and immediately after birth) injuries. Such patients suffer from other neuro-disabilities such as cerebral palsy, newborn morbidity, blindness, or deafness.
To improve standards of post-labour (or post-pregnancy) care, the researchers have introduced what they call a “care bundle”. They believe its introduction can help reduce the risk of perinatal brain injuries.
The "care bundle" includes intelligent birth companions, foetal heart rate monitoring by Doppler, an electronic partogram (that records labour-related data), and brain-oriented neonatal resuscitation.
The babies will also be monitored for secondary outcomes apart from epilepsy, such as encephalopathy (brain disease, damage, or malfunction) and seizures.
Apart from University College London, five other higher educational institutions, the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Madras Medical College, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute and Government Medical College, Kozhikode, will be involved in the PREVENT project.
The total duration of the study is about four years. It will include two years of recruitment and 18 months of follow-up. It is expected to be concluded by the end of 2023.