All over the world, many pregnant women deal with the lack of access to health systems and quality prenatal care that ensures their health and that of their baby. The complications of prematurity lead the causes of infant mortality in the world. Recognizing as early as possible that a baby was born premature and needs special care can prevent several diseases in childhood and adulthood. With this in mind, an initiative called "Premiee-Test" has been developed since 2015 by Brazilian researchers, sponsored by Fiocruz and Grand Challenges Canada.
Aiming at low-resource scenarios, where premature birth is more common and, at the same time, the uncertainty of the pregnancy chronology is a challenge, the project sought to validate this new technology that will be able to inform the gestational age of a newborn, when it is unknown or imprecise, on the first day of life.
Fiotec directly supported the management of national and international resources that made the validation study of the equipment possible. "This support occurred through guidance, analysis and control of planned x done, integration between the funder and the researcher, as well as support to the scholarship holders who conducted research in Brazil and Mozambique, procurement of materials and management of the financial execution along with monitoring of the research schedule ensuring that the project stays on track", explained Semiramis Alves, Fiotec's international execution project analyst.
Results with the new technology
According to Zilma Reis, an obstetrician and scientific coordinator of the project, the medical equipment "Preemie-Test" consists in touching the baby's foot skin for a few seconds and capturing the maturity of the skin by the interaction of the light it emits with the biological components of this tissue. Next, the operator inputs some clinical variables such as birth weight. A machine learning (artificial intelligence) algorithm then estimates the gestational age, i.e., the duration of the pregnancy.
A study conducted in five Brazilian hospitals with 781 newborn babies showed that for every 100 babies, 91 were correctly classified as premature or not by the new technology. Another study carried out in a partnership between Brazilian and Mozambican hospitals evaluated 305 newborn babies from a special group called low birth weight (born weighing less than 2.5kg), therefore with higher risks of complications than the others. The result showed that 96% of the premature babies were detected by the Preemie test.
The technology has been recognized by the World Health Organization as an emerging technology for low-resource settings. "In addition to the test, the Preemie Care app informs the user what care should be given to the baby in the first moments after birth, using scientifically-based recommendations recognized by the WHO, in the form of easy-to-understand images and objective phrases. It is available for free download from the app stores," points out the project coordinator.
Check out more about the project here.