Countries working together to save babies
Researchers from Norway, England and Uganda have just been awarded a €5.9 million grant study how relatively simple measures relating to hand hygiene can help to prevent newborn infections in Uganda.
The European Developing Countries Trials Partnership (EDCTP) funding randomized control trial, entitled BabyGel, will be led by Professor Andrew Weeks at the University of Liverpool. Professors Thorkild Tylleskär and Ingunn Engebretsen from the Centre for International Health at the University of Bergen will participate in the project, undertaking postgraduate training, while doctors from Makerere University, the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Mbale Hospital, the University of Exeter and Busitema University will provide expert input.
Dying from infections
In the poorer parts of rural Africa, there is often very little sanitation in homes. With few flushing toilets or hand washing facilities, infections can spread easily. In particular, this leads to high rates of infections in children. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 12 children will die before their 5th birthday - infection is the most common cause.
The BabyGel study will test whether the use of sterilising hand gel in the home and community can prevent infections in newborn babies.
Gathering data to impact policy
Weeks explains: “trying to find ways to prevent infection in the home is very difficult. Researchers have put toilets and sinks into many villages, but found that they are rarely used. Alcohol-based hand rub however is cheap, highly effective, and can be made locally in Uganda from sugar cane. Women love it for the effect it has on their hands - it has proved to be very popular. This large, randomised trial will show whether it also prevents infections in newborns. If it can, then we will be looking to include it in delivery packs for every expectant mother”.
The study will take place in Mbale District, in eastern Uganda over the next five years. It will be run by the Tropical Clinical Trials Unit of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with the Sanyu Africa Research Institute (SAfRI).
Working together to save lives
“This is a great example of countries working together to save the lives of babies”, said James Ditai, the Chief Executive of SAfRI. “No mother should lose their newborn to these easily preventable illnesses”.