Health Over-the-counter drug could help underweight babies thrive

Over-the-counter drug could help underweight babies thrive

Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.

Some babies are born so underweight their tiny bodies can’t cope with the demanding first days of life.

Researchers at The University of Queensland have found a medicine that helps — and chances are it’s already in your bathroom cupboard.

Around the world each year, about 32 million babies are born at a reduced size because they couldn’t get enough nutrients and oxygen from the placenta.

The reasons why are unknown but it leaves these newborns vulnerable to a range of brain-related conditions, from learning and concentration difficulties later, through to cerebral palsy.

The University of Queensland’s Julie Wixey says researchers had previously identified inflammation as a key cause of brain damage in babies classified as growth-restricted — those born in the bottom-tenth weight percentile.

So the team decided to try a simple fix: common anti-inflammatory drug, Ibuprofen.

Amazingly, it worked.

“By administering it for three days after birth, we were able to reduce damage to brain cells,” Dr Wixey says.

In fact, Ibuprofen is already given in similar doses to help newborns with a separate condition involving improper closure of the heart valves.

The team is hopeful its use can translate quickly to the treatment of growth-restricted babies.

The information in this article should not be considered medical advice. Please see your medical professional for information tailored to your personal circumstances. 

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