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Indian, British Experts Launch World’s Largest Study On Infant Brain Injuries

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One of the most common neurological disorders, epilepsy affects people of all ages. According to a recent survey, of the 70 million people suffering from epilepsy globally, nearly 12 million (one-sixth of the global burden) are said to live in India.

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Approximately five per cent of children experience at least one seizure during the first five years of life. To help prevent epilepsy, leading experts from the UK and Indian universities launched the world’s largest study on babies with brain injuries in India this week.

At 12 million, India carries an enormous burden of epilepsy, accounting for one-sixth of world figures. To reduce the number of epilepsy cases due to perinatal brain injury, the Imperial College London has announced that it will lead a study called Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT).

The 3.4-million pounds project, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, will be conducted over four years by researchers from institutions in the UK and India. It will study around 80,000 women recruited from three major hospitals in South India – the Bangalore Medical College, the Madras Medical College and the Calicut Medical College.

The Imperial College London will lead the Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT) study to try and reduce the number of epilepsy cases following perinatal brain injury.

According to experts, brain injury during labour or childbirth is one of the leading causes of epilepsy in babies in some areas of the world and a common cause is perinatal asphyxia – where oxygen is cut off to the foetal brain, damaging it.

The researchers believe that perinatal brain injury could be reduced by introducing a “care bundle” to improve the intrapartum care in Indian public hospitals, which includes intelligent foetal heart rate monitoring, an e-partogram, brain oriented neonatal resuscitation, and birth companions.

The babies will also be monitored for secondary outcomes apart from epilepsy, such as encephalopathy (brain disease, damage, or malfunction) and seizures.

All babies with brain injury will have detailed neurophysiological investigations, including electroencephalogram (EEG), advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neurodevelopmental follow up assessments. The scientists hope that the findings from this trial will be applicable to babies in the UK and around the world as well as in India.

Professor Helen Cross, from the University College London and one of the study investigators, said: “Millions of people around the world develop epilepsy every year and the incidence is twice as high in low and middle-income countries. Epilepsy related to perinatal brain injury is a large social and economic burden in India.”

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. A number of leading academics in Obstetrics, Midwifery, Neonatology, Neurology, Electrophysiology, Public Health and Health Economics from the UK and India will be involved in the PREVENT study to work on coming up with answers to prevent epilepsy. 

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