Study to predict women at risk of preterm delivery

Briony Swart had experienced two late miscarriages at 21 weeks before giving birth to Ziggy on Friday 9 February
13 February 2018 | Pregnancy | Research and clinical trials

Melbourne researchers are to begin a major study that could result in a test to accurately predict if women will experience preterm labour during their pregnancy.

Such a laboratory or bed-side product would enable clinicians to offer suitable, potentially life-saving care to mothers and babies.

The three-year trial study involving more than 3000 women at the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Mercy Hospital for Women will go ahead thanks to a commercial agreement between the University of Melbourne and Carmentix Australia Pty Ltd.

Royal Women’s Hospital and University of Melbourne senior research fellow Dr Harry Georgiou said bringing a preterm labour test to market would revolutionise maternity care.
“Every year about 15 million babies worldwide are born pre-term and more than 1 million will die, mostly in developing countries. A reliable predictive test could make a big difference for many pre-term babies in both the short and longer term.”


Mercy Hospital for Women and University of Melbourne researcher and obstetrician Dr Megan Di Quinzio said: “The vast majority of women are healthy and have no identified risk factors, but up to 10 per cent can experience labour at a preterm gestation without warning.

“To reliably know of likely preterm labour beforehand would offer so much hope because even predicting or delaying labour by a few days or weeks and thereby allowing adequate time to prepare the baby for life outside the womb can make a huge difference.”

Women planning to give birth at either the Royal Women’s Hospital or the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne, are invited to take part in the Predicting Preterm Labour study - or PPeTaL. Swabs from participants will be analysed for protein “biomarkers” to check how closely those biomarkers are associated with impending labour.

“Participation in this study could ultimately save babies’ lives in the future,” Dr Di Quinzio said.
Carmentix chief executive Dr Nir Arbel said: “We are excited about entering into a deeper, long term collaboration with the University of Melbourne. Our previous study demonstrated, for the first time, that we may accurately predict preterm birth months before any symptoms arise. We now see our goal of saving lives and our path to achieving it is clear.”

The University of Melbourne-Carmentix collaboration has already identified biomarkers associated with labour. The new agreement, announced today, will zero in on the most promising of those biomarkers to determine their predictive utility.

Briony Swart experienced two miscarriages at 21 weeks. After close monitoring at the Women's Preterm Labour Clinic, Briony gave birth last week at term to baby Ziggy.

She hopes a test to identify those at risk of preterm labour will help women like her in future.