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Antenatal steroids such as dexamethasone can boost the survival of premature babies when given to pregnant women at risk of preterm birth in countries like India. Unsplash

Antenatal steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat many conditions, including rheumatic problems and severe COVID-19, can boost the survival of premature babies when given to pregnant women at risk of preterm birth in countries like India, say researchers at World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dexamethasone and similar drugs have long shown to be effective in saving preterm babies lives in high-income countries, where high-quality newborn care is more accessible.


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This is the first time a clinical trial has proven that the drugs are also effective in low-income settings, the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reported.

The WHO ACTION-I trial resolves an ongoing controversy about the efficacy of antenatal steroids for improving preterm newborn survival in low-income countries.

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Conducted from December 2017-November 2019, the randomised trial recruited 2852 women and their 3,070 babies from 29 secondary and tertiary level hospitals in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Beyond finding a significantly lower risk of neonatal death and stillbirth, the study also found there was no increase in possible maternal bacterial infections when treating pregnant women with dexamethasone in low-resource settings.


Women who are in weeks 26-34 of their pregnancy are most likely to benefit from the steroid, so healthcare providers must also have access to ultrasound to accurately date their pregnancies. Unsplash

“Dexamethasone is now a proven drug to save babies born too soon in low-income settings,” said study author Dr Olufemi Oladapo, head of maternal and perinatal health unit at WHO.

“But it is only effective when administered by health-care providers who can make timely and accurate decisions, and provide a minimum package of high-quality care for both pregnant women and their babies,” Oladapo added.

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The impact is significant: for every 25 pregnant women treated with dexamethasone, one premature baby’s life was saved.

When administered to mothers at risk of preterm birth, dexamethasone crosses the placenta and accelerates lung development, making it less likely for preterm babies to have respiratory problems at birth.

Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: ओटीटी लहर दिलाती है दूरदर्शन युग की याद

The study noted that healthcare providers must have the means to select the women most likely to benefit from the drug and to correctly initiate the treatment at the right time – ideally 48 hours before giving birth to give enough time to complete steroid injections for maximal effect.

Women who are in weeks 26-34 of their pregnancy are most likely to benefit from the steroid, so healthcare providers must also have access to ultrasound to accurately date their pregnancies.

Also Read: Patients with NCD More Vulnerable to COVID in India

In addition, babies must receive sufficiently good-quality care when they are born, the team said.

“When a minimal package of care for newborn babies is in place in low-income countries, antenatal steroids such as dexamethasone can help to save preterm babies’ lives,” said study author Dr Rajiv Bahl, head of the newborn health unit at WHO. (IANS)


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Surgeons attached a pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days, and the kidney did what it was supposed to do.

Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.

Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.

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Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Killer Smog in Delhi.

Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.

The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.

These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.

The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.

Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.

Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."

The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.

"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences


Photo by GOI.

On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020

On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.

According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.

Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.

According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.

Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)


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