Six government-funded research institutes and hospitals on Tuesday jointly initiated a multi-institute study to understand the underlying causes of preterm birth, which kills 300,000 babies every year – the highest in the world.
Launched with support from the Department of Biotechnology, the Rs 48 crore study would investigate about 800-1000 cases of preterm birth in women in and around Gurgaon. “We seek to identify physical, environmental and biological factors behind preterm birth and do the risk stratification,” Shinjini Bhatnagar, the project’s coordinating scientist from Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Gurgaon told Deccan Herald.
Globally, preterm birth that takes place before the mother has been pregnant for at least 37 weeks, is the single largest cause of neonatal deaths.
In India, among the total 27 million babies born annually, 3.6 million babies are born preterm, and over 300,000 of these preterm babies die each year because of associated complications.
India has the highest number of preterm births and the highest number of preterm deaths worldwide, contributing 25 per cent of the overall global preterm related deaths. The effects of such premature births extend beyond the early infancy with have several long-term complications in late childhood and adult life.
A major reason for scientists’ inability to reduce the burden of preterm birth is that the causes of preterm birth are not fully understood. It is likely caused by a combination of physical, environmental and biological factors, even though biological factors appear to be the predominant causes that predispose a woman to deliver babies preterm.
“The studies available are snap shot, which do not provide a systematic long-term view. While some factors are known, many facets of preterm birth are unknown,” she said.