New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has initiated a joint research with Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) to develop new antibiotics for drug-resistant bacterial infections in newborns.

GARDP is a joint initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). The observational study is being carried out across three sites in India, including Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, King Edward Memorial (KEM), Mumbai, and Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry.

The study is also being conducted in hospitals and neonatal units in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Greece, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Uganda. It focuses on collecting information on babies with clinical sepsis.

The study will generate an evidence base on how neonatal sepsis is managed, which can then be used as a basis for evaluating future interventions in neonates (newborns). Neonatal sepsis is a type of neonatal infection and specifically refers to the presence of a bacterial blood stream infection such as meningitis, pneumonia or gastroenteritis with fever.

Scientists said that the study will reveal more information on mortality, antibiotic use and duration of antimicrobial therapy. Currently little data is available on these parameters. Limited research on newborns has resulted in lack of evidence about appropriate treatment of serious and drug-resistant infections in this vulnerable population.

Doctors claim that sepsis, the body’s response to infection, can be life-threatening and poses a particular threat to newborns as their immune systems are not fully developed. Increasing rates of bacteria resistance to existing treatments are reported globally, with hospitalised newborns and infants at high risk of developing drug-resistant hospital-acquired infections.

Newborns’ susceptibility to sepsis is further compounded by the challenges of diagnosing serious bacterial infections since symptoms and signs can be non-specific and difficult to detect, doctors claim.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today. It is a major and rapidly growing public health problem, globally, with estimates of up to 700,000 deaths per year. AMR is threatening to compromise the gains we made as a country to control infectious diseases such as malaria, and tuberculosis," said Anupriya patel minister of state, health and family welfare.

“The National Health Policy 2017 identifies antimicrobial resistance as a critical priority and calls for effective action to address it. The ministry of health and family welfare identified AMR as one of the top 10 priorities for the ministry’s collaborative work with WHO," she added.

The study aims to guide development of new treatments and reverse global increase in deaths of newborns. The observational study, led by the GARDP, has received $2 million funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While significant progress has been made in recent years to improve child health globally, including a 50% reduction in child mortality since 1990, the number of preventable deaths in newborns remains unacceptably high. Neonatal deaths now represent 44% of all deaths in children under the age of five.

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