Manchester team who developed test to save babies’ hearing win New Statesman Positive Impact in Healthcare Award

A joint effort from researchers based at St Mary's Hospital, the University of Manchester and Manchester-based firm genedrive has seen an amazing genetic test created that could save children's hearing
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Using a cheek swab, the test can identify in 26 minutes whether a critically ill baby admitted to intensive care has a gene change that could result in permanent hearing loss if they are treated with a common emergency antibiotic, Gentamicin.

Another amazing Manchester developed invention.

The new test saw them scoop the New Statesman Positive Impact in Healthcare Award.

The antibiotic, gentamicin is roughly used to safely treat 100,000 babies a year – but – one in 500 babies carry the gene change that can lead to permanent hearing loss when given the antibiotic.

The new test means that babies found to have the genetic variant can be given an alternative antibiotic within the ‘golden hour’ and could save the hearing of 200 babies in England every year.

ALOH study lead, Professor Bill Newman, Consultant in Genomic Medicine at MFT and Professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at The University of Manchester, said: “I am delighted for the team to receive this recognition of their fantastic efforts and their innovative approach in bringing this test to fruition.”

The new swab test technique, which was piloted at Manchester Hospital, replaces a test that traditionally took several days and is the first use of a rapid point of care genetic test in acute neonatal care.

Dr Ajit Mahaveer, Consultant Neonatologist, Rachel James, Senior Research Coordinator and Nicola Booth, Research Nurse Manager on the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Saint Mary’s Hospital, attended the awards ceremony in London and accepted the award on behalf of the team.

“I am incredibly proud to be part of the team who made this study a reality and to be recognised at this year’s New Statesman Positive Impact Awards. It’s an honour to accept the award on behalf of the team, knowing the work we have put into delivering this research will truly make a difference to hundreds of babies’ lives each year.

“As a doctor dealing daily with infection, my main concern was how easy and quickly the test was to conduct, as it’s important that we do not delay antibiotic treatment. Our experience of using this test has been very positive. It’s straight-forward, non-invasive and will have a huge impact on our patients’ lives.”

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