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  • Australian scientists discovered treatment for pre-eclampsia

    Author: AAP

An international team of scientists have found a treatment that could save many of the 60,000 lives lost each year to pre-eclampsia.

Australian scientists have discovered a drug used to treat reflux has the potential to "wipe out" pre-eclampsia, a deadly pregnancy complication that affects thousands of women every year.

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Pre-eclampsia is a condition where the placenta releases toxins through the body that can damage blood vessels and lead to organ failure in pregnant women.

There is no treatment other than to deliver the baby early, putting the child's life at risk.

But in a medical breakthrough, an effective and life-saving treatment could be available within the next five years, says Dr Natalie Hannan from the Translational Obstetrics Group (TOG) based at Melbourne's Mercy Hospital for Women.


Cabrini Health
ACAS Assessor
St Vincent's Hospital

Scientists at the hospital have shown that the drug esomeprazole - a proton pump inhibitor used to treat gastric reflux and indigestion - can switch off the production of toxins from the pre-eclamptic placenta.

The proton inhibitors were also successful in bringing down blood pressure - the main symptom of pre-eclampsia - in mice with the disease, according to the study published in medical journal Hypertension.

Dr Hannan, who led the international study, says she was "astonished" by the effectiveness of the drug.

"We actually can't believe how great the drug is working to block these toxins."

It's estimated between 60,000 to 70,000 women are lost to pre-eclampsia each year globally and around half-a-million babies.

Already proven safe to use during pregnancy, a major clinical trial to test the drug is now underway in South Africa.

A total of 120 pregnant women with the disease will be treated with esomeprazole at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.

Further trials in Australia are also planned.

"If proton pump inhibitors can reduce the burden of pre-eclampsia, it could save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies globally," said Professor Stephen Tong, the head of TOG.


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