Bengaluru: Experts from UK and India launched the world’s largest study on babies with brain injuries in India this week, in an attempt to combat epilepsy. The project is called the Prevention of Epilepsy by Reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT) and is being led by the Imperial College London.
The study has a budget of £3.4 million or ₹30 crore and is aimed at understanding the brain development in newborns.
Brain injury during childbirth is one of the leading causes of epilepsy in babies. The most common reason for such an injury is perinatal asphyxia, which occurs when the oxygen supply to the baby’s brain is cut off.
Researchers will recruit around 80,000 pregnant women for PREVENT, over the next two years, from three major hospitals in South India — Bangalore Medical College, Madras Medical College and Calicut Medical College.
For babies born with a brain injury, the programme will conduct detailed neuro-physiological investigations. These include advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), video electroencephalography (to assess brain activity in babies), and neurodevelopmental assessments up until a period of 18 months.
In India, around 500,000 cases of epilepsy occur each year, out of which nearly one-fifth (87,000) of the cases could be from perinatal injuries. Many such patients also suffer from other neuro-disabilities such as cerebral palsy, newborn morbidity, blindness or deafness.
Care bundle to avoid brain injury
The researchers have come up with a ‘care bundle’ that will improve labour care, as they believe this could reduce the risk of such perinatal brain injury. The ‘care bundle’ includes intelligent birth companions, foetal heart rate monitoring by a 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 and seizures.
The participating institutions in the study are University College London, University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Madras Medical College, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute and Government Medical College, Kozhikode.
The study researchers are multidisciplinary and are experts in various fields like obstetrics, neonatology, neurology, electrophysiology, public health and health economics.
The total duration of the study is four years, including 24 months of recruitment and 18 months of follow-up. It is expected to conclude by the end of 2023.