Premature Baby and Mum
Premature Baby and Mum

World-class trial to save tiny babies

SOME of Australia's tiniest and most vulnerable babies will benefit from world-class clinical trials to be led by experts from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne.

Five cutting-edge medical research programs will advance to clinical trials after the Federal Government provided grants totalling $8 million to fund research into dementia, heart disease, the brain, infection control, and caring for preterm babies.

The Murdoch Institute's Associate Professor David Tingay will lead a five-year trial across 25 centres in Australia, Europe and North America, studying ways to provide better respiratory support for very tiny preterm babies.

Prof. Tingay said the babies needed support to not only draw breath after they were born, but to exhale and clear the fluid from their lungs.

His clinical trial will examine ways of tailoring precise respiratory support to help babies take their first few breaths while minimising the risk of injuries to their fragile lungs.

The trial will apply to 904 babies born between 23 and 28 weeks gestation and will examine the best way to apply a treatment known as "PEEP'' - positive end-expiratory pressure.

Babies from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and the King Edward Hospital in Perth will be part of the trial.

Echuca mum Naomi Ainslie and baby Ruby in the Royal Children’s Hospital. Ruby is doing well after a tough start being born at 27 weeks. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Echuca mum Naomi Ainslie and baby Ruby in the Royal Children’s Hospital. Ruby is doing well after a tough start being born at 27 weeks. Picture: Tim Carrafa

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the trials would be funded through the Government's Medical Research Future Fund through its International Clinical Trial Collaborations program, and would allow Australian researchers to collaborate with international researchers.

"The Morrison Government recognises the importance of clinical trials to drive new ideas and achieve new discoveries to improve quality of life and survival rates, and boost our nation's strong reputation as a global leader in medical research,'' Mr Hunt said.

Baby Ruby, who was born in July at just 27 weeks' gestation, needed respiratory support after her early delivery.

Ruby's mother Naomi Ainslie, from Echuca, said it was extremely stressful to see her tiny baby need help with her breathing, and that Ruby had needed respiratory support for almost three months.

"She was a micro-premmie, she weighed just 704 grams when she was born,'' Ms Ainslie said.

She welcomed news of the trial, which would help doctors work out how much pressure to apply to small babies like Ruby to help them breathe, without damaging their tiny lungs.

Ms Ainslie hopes to be allowed to take Ruby home from the Royal Children's Hospital next month, and reunite her with her four older brothers and dad Jason Wallis.

The other trials to be funded by the Government are:

- $1.8 million for the University of Western Australia to investigate ways to treating severe narrowing of the aortic heart valve, which was a common condition.

- $3.1 million for Macquarie University in NSW to research ways to reduce the risk of dementia by making lifestyle changes.

- $900,000 for the George Institute for Global Health in NSW to evaluate the best treatments for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage caused by burst arteries in the brain.

- $782,000 for the University of Newcastle to trial a new type of wound dressing to reduce infection for patients following emergency abdominal surgery.