PLATYPUS: Preterm infant immunomodulation to treat
sepsis and brain injury prevention
This SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme aims to look at perinatal and early neonatal periods and examine the inflammatory responses to sepsis, and necrotising enterocolitis, with subsequent brain injury complications.
Preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation), is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age worldwide. Preterm infants are at much higher risk of severe bacterial infection compared to term infants. Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating disease involving inflammation and necrosis of the intestines, with mortality in very low birth weight babies as high as 30%. Despite rapid advancements in neonatal intensive care, morbidity and mortality amongst preterm infants with sepsis and NEC remains unacceptably high. Treatment strategies have changed little over the years, with medical treatment with antibiotics and supportive care or surgical treatment involving bowel resection. Preterm infants have a unique immune response to sepsis and NEC with hyperinflammation at its core. The neonatal inflammatory response to intrauterine or postnatal infections, while important to host defence, is manifested by acute systemic inflammation leads to end-organ damage, including perinatal brain injury. It has been shown that neonatal infection in preterm infants increases the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in this population.
Understanding these hyperinflammatory mechanisms in the preterm infant is vital to developing new therapies to improve outcomes and survival. At present there is no accepted consensus definition for neonatal sepsis with significant heterogeneity amongst definitions. This lack of definition leads to barriers in collaboration of researchers and a unified definition would benefit not only researchers but patients and clinicians.
The PLATYPUS project aims to:
- To evaluate and understand the mechanisms of inflammation in preterm infants with sepsis/NEC.
- To identify possible biomarkers associated with sepsis/NEC in preterm infants and further investigate the potential for immunomodulatory therapies.
- To create a consensus-based definition of Neonatal Sepsis, including Parents/family members of infants who have had sepsis, Healthcare professionals with expertise in neonatal sepsis, individuals with interest in neonatal sepsis research and policy makers.