- Preterm or premature birth usually occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- New drug Plus-Naloxone shows early promise in preventing preterm births.
- Plus-Naloxone drug acts by targeting the body’s inflammatory mechanisms to prevent preterm births.
A research team from the University of Adelaide has identified a new drug which shows early promise in preventing preterm births.
The research study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Plus-naloxone drug was found to reduce still-births and other health issues caused due to preterm births.
Around 12% of the overall births in the world represent preterm births.
Plus-naloxone drug is found to suppress proinflammatory pathways that triggers premature birth in mice.
Professor Sarah Robertson lead author of the study said, "The babies born to mothers treated with plus-naloxone developed normally and were mostly indistinguishable from those born to the control group."
The research findings found that the main cause of preterm births in humans were due to bacterial infections, placental damage, physical injury or environmental toxins which causes an inflammatory cascade that is capable of activating an immune response in women which inturn would speed up delivery.
Toll like receptor 4 (TLR4) immune receptor triggers the inflammatory cascade that responds to infection and stress. This receptor produces a number of pro-inflammatory effects which are quite harmful during pregnancy.
Professor Sarah Robertson said, "TLR4 is a trigger of spontaneous pre-term birth," "For this reason, we wanted to test a drug known for its ability to block the actions of TLR4, to see if that would also prevent pre-term birth."
Current drugs for preventing preterm births are usually given at a later stage of pregnancy while plus-naloxone can be given during the third trimester.
The drug is used in conjunction with antibiotics for women who are at a high risk for preterm births, IVF pregnancies, multiple pregnancy and pre-eclampsia(complicated pregnancy with high blood pressure and organ damage).
The drug was also found to be safe in women who have serious infections.
The author concludes that the current study which helps in the prevention of preterm births by targeting the body's inflammatory mechanisms requires further research before testing it on women.