Baby science: Australia backs Liggins Institute caesarean study

An innovative New Zealand study to help babies born by planned caesarean section won endorsement and support from Australia's government.

Australia’s government is backing a study by the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute that aims to help the one-in-10 babies born by planned caesarean section to avoid breathing problems.

A$2.2 million ($2.4 million) of funding means research already underway at hospitals across New Zealand will expand into Australia.

Nearly 2,500 pregnant women across both countries will help researchers and clinicians discover whether a simple treatment helps babies avoid breathing problems in a study called C*STEROID.

“We’re thrilled Australia’s government deemed this to be a high-quality clinical trial that can improve the health of Australians as well as New Zealanders,” says Associate Professor Katie Groom, who’s leading the research.

“More than one in ten babies are now born by planned caesarean section, so we have to get it right,” says Dr Groom.

Short-term breathing problems are more common in babies born by planned or elective caesarean section than in other newborns. The C*STEROID Trial is investigating whether corticosteroids given to mums after 35 weeks of pregnancy and before a planned caesarean section can reduce the number of babies who require treatment in intensive care for breathing problems.

The project builds on the pioneering work of the late Sir Graham 'Mont' Liggins in uncovering the benefits of giving corticosteroids to mums before preterm births.

In New Zealand, the research has been supported by Hugo Charitable Trust, Cure Kids, Lottery Health Research, the University of Auckland, and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

The study has been rolled out through the ON TRACK Network which facilitates clinical trials across New Zealand to help mothers and babies.

“This endorsement by the Australian government is evidence of the success of the ON TRACK Network,” says Dr Groom. She noted that ON TRACK’s future is in doubt because five years of funding runs out towards the end of this year.

Australia’s funding of the C*STEROID collaboration statement

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