Professor Peter Ghazal, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Biomedicine at the University of Edinburgh's Division of Pathway Medicine, explained: "Just as a Twitter user can send a 140 character message so a baby's genome produces short messages or signals that produce code information to communicate with the infant's immune and metabolic systems so that it can fight the infection. The 52-character 'tweet' or message that we have identified appears to be specific for bacterial but not viral infection. This type of signal could also be used to detect infection in children and adults. We are now working on ways of using a single drop of blood to detect this vital signal. This work is also leading us onto a response to tackling antibiotics resistance."
Dr Claire Smith, Consultant Neonatologist at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, added: "This study has the potential to provide real clinical benefits in the future. Despite advances in neonatal care, infection in newborn babies remains a significant issue. Infection is responsible for a significant proportion of neonatal deaths worldwide, and also increases the risk of long-term disability in survivors. There is a pressing clinical need for more accurate and rapid testing for neonatal infection than is currently available. This work is enabling us to move towards being able to distinguish between babies with true infection who need urgent treatment, and those who are not infected and therefore don't require antibiotics. The potential benefits to babies and their families are important. We are grateful to the families who consented to take part in the study."
|Contact: Eleanor Cowie|
University of Edinburgh