Safer treatment for sick newborns | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - September 2015

Safer treatment for sick newborns

Research funded by Action has allowed doctors to successfully test a new computer program to guide and improve the use of an antibiotic commonly given to treat infections in babies.

Infections are a major cause of death and illness in babies in intensive care, making prompt treatment vital. Gentamicin is the most commonly used antibiotic but getting a dose that is both safe and effective is not always straightforward. If too much is given the drug can seriously damage a baby’s ears and kidneys.

Professor Paul Heath and his team have been developing computer software to predict how much and how often gentamicin should be given for each individual baby, taking into account important variables such as age and weight. This could standardise the way gentamicin is used across the UK, improving safety for vulnerable babies, and would also reduce the number of blood tests needed.

Having shown their program is accurate, the next step will be to develop more user-friendly software suitable for wider use in the NHS. Such software may in the future be appropriate for use with other antibiotics.

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