Perth researchers predict new test could reduce premature birth

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UWA research midwife Narisha Pendal and UWA Senior Research Fellow and microbiologist Dr Matthew Payne. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au   d494619a
d494619a UWA research midwife Narisha Pendal and UWA Senior Research Fellow and microbiologist Dr Matthew Payne. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d494619a

RESEARCHERS at UWA and King Edward Memorial Hospital predict a new test could prevent about 30 per cent of premature births.

Australian molecular diagnostics company SpeeDx will commercialise the test which will also be part-funded by a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

Researchers aim to recruit more than 6000 Australian women to trial the test which will identify and assess women at risk of premature birth over the next four years.

If successful, routine screening and treatment in early pregnancy can be used to lower the rates of preterm birth.

UWA Senior Research Fellow and microbiologist Dr Matthew Payne said preterm birth was the single biggest cause of death and disability in children under five in the developed world.

“Bacterial infections of the womb are a major cause of premature birth but until now we haven’t been able to accurately identify women at risk, so antibiotic treatment hasn’t been particularly successful or widely adopted,” Dr Payne said.

“The new test will allow us to identify women at risk, early on in their pregnancy, so that they can be treated with antibiotics and probiotics to prevent premature birth.”

SpeeDx chief executive Colin Denver said the company was committed to the commercial development of clinically relevant tests that support better patient care.