Investing in Health

Priority Research Theme: Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health

Improved Health and Wellbeing Throughout Life With Well-Timed and Planned Families

Theme Co-Leaders: Professor Cheryl Jones and Associate Professor Christopher O'Neill

Excellent reproductive health for men, women and children, together with effective medical care, are essential to give every individual the potential for a happy, healthy and productive life.

This theme addresses reproductive health in adults, maternal health during pregnancy and development from conception until entry into adulthood. We believe that this is vital because it is during these periods that many of the determinants of health, well-being and disease susceptibility are established for the whole of life.

This is a numerically large and stronge theme, and many groups are international leaders within their fields. The range of work being undertaken is extensive, with the fields of endeavour ranging from basic research in biology and congenital conditions, to clinical trials and epidemiological studies of infant mortality.

The results-driven research conducted here into the causes and prevention of maternal, perinatal and infant death, has led to vastly improved maternity services in remote and urban Australia, as well as internationally. The researchers have been lauded in the medical community for our active and unparalleled involvement in the evolution of maternal health care.

This unique understanding of the effects of foetal and childhood life on adult and community health gives the theme's insightful researchers the best opportunity in history to have a profound effect on global health. The focused approach in these areas opens the door to better health and wellbeing for those in developed and developing countries, and the insight gained through active collaboration across the group ensures a continuing, substantial difference across the broad spectrum of human health.

Funding Opportunity: Profiling and Preventing Cerebral Palsy Caused by Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term to describe a range of motor disorders arising from a non-progressive defect or damage to the developing brain in a baby or infant. There are multiple causes of cerebral palsy most of which are poorly understood. Ctyomegalovirus, or CMV, is a herpes virus that can cross the placenta, infecting the fetus and potentially causing damage to the developing central nervous system. Worldwide estimates suggest that CMV causes up to 1:120 cases of cerebral palysy. In Australia, we currently only detect on 1:100 due to lack of systematic screening methods.

Every year, an estimated 1460 infants are born with congential CMV infection in Australia. However, the true incidence of cerebral palsy due to CMV remains unclear, as routine screening for CMV is not performed in newborn infants when it can be accurately diagnosed as having occured congenitally. Such screening would be a first step in preventing cerebral palsy from CMV infection, as there is evidence that anti-viral agents - if given in the first weeks of life - an prevent or lessen neurological impairment. What is needed is convincing evidence of the need for such screening, which could persuade policy makers to implement it. We plan to test approximately 450 newborn screening cards for CMV to determine if congenital CMV infection occured, and determine the number of children with cerebral palsy attributed to the infection. Examining this number of screening cards will allow for detection of any significant differences in association between types of cerebral palsy and CMV.

Staff support and laboratory and non laboratory consumables $120,000 per year
Over three years = $360,000