The Imperial College London has announced a coalition with a number of universities across India, fronting a study entitled “Prevention of Epilepsy by Reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT)”. The campaign is cited as the world’s largest study on babies with neonatal encephalopathy and other brain injuries occurring shortly after birth, in an attempt to reduce the number of cases of epilepsy resulting from the brain trauma.
Trauma to the brain during or shortly after childbirth is noted as being one of the most common risk factors for developing epilepsy across much of the world. Encephalitis, or other injuries to the brain, can result in perinatal asphyxia, a condition in which areas of the brain are starved of oxygen, in many cases resulting in permanent damage — including the potential for the development of epilepsy.
A study published in 2012 found that nearly 95 percent of people with epilepsy in India don’t receive any treatment for epilepsy at all. The study recommended that epilepsy be treated with as much attention as is currently given to other noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease.
Of the seventy million people suffering from epilepsy worldwide, nearly twelve million are expected to reside in India. This represents nearly one-sixth of the global epilepsy burden. Notably, the disease was found to be more common among males, individuals who belong to lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those who reside in rural areas.
The London-led study, therefore, comes as a potential major boon for epilepsy care and treatment in India. The focus of the research is to introduce a “care bundle” to improve the intrapartum care in Indian public hospitals. This would involve the use of intelligent foetal heart rate monitoring, an e-partogram, brain-oriented neonatal resuscitation, and birth companions. In doing so, they believe that the rate of brain trauma — or its long-term effects — could be mitigated.
“Birth asphyxia-related brain injury is the commonest cause of death and disability in babies worldwide,” said Dr Sudhin Thayyil, lead researcher of the study at Imperial College London. We believe that this could be substantially reduced with a ‘care bundle’ that combines many key evidence-based elements which have been shown to reduce perinatal brain injury.”
The study has already revealed that it will have a wide scope, assessing the births of 80,000 women recruited from three major hospitals in south India – the Bangalore Medical College, Madras Medical College and Calicut Medical College. It is already clear that epilepsy care in India needs to be improved significantly. The results of the study could further underline that more needs to be done in both preventing and treating epilepsy within the country.
Professor Helen Cross, from the University College London and one of the study investigators, said “millions of people around the world develop epilepsy every year and the incidence is twice as high in low and middle income countries. Epilepsy related to perinatal brain injury is a large social and economic burden in India.”