Giving babies a healthier start

Why are our scientists researching how to adapt an ingredient in mouthwash into a gel for newborn babies?

Because studies have suggested that an ingredient in our Corsodyl mouthwash – chlorhexidine - could prevent up to 1 in 6 newborn deaths in low income countries.   One of the causes of deaths in newborns in poorer countries is sepsis – blood poisoning - which can enter a baby’s system through the umbilical cord stump.  

Our researchers adapted chlorhexidine into a gel that can withstand wide variations in temperature so that it could be supplied to remote communities in developing countries in simple sachets.  The gel – which received a positive opinion from the European regulatory agency in April 2016 - could be applied to sterilise the stump wound and promote healing into a healthy belly button. 

The antiseptic gel is intended exclusively for use in developing countries and if approved for use, GSK will offer it at a not-for-profit price and will share its manufacturing knowledge with others to enable it to be made locally.

It’s just one of the projects that the scientists in our maternal and neonatal health R&D unit are working on to help reduce the mortality caused by complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Every day around 800 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, while each year almost three million babies don’t make it past their first month. By far the largest proportion of these occur in developing countries, and most could have been prevented with access to appropriate treatments or frontline care.

'We are delighted to have reached this significant milestone, which brings us a step closer to help protect newborns from umbilical cord infection. The combination of GSK’s scientific, regulatory and manufacturing capabilities and Save the Children’s on-the-ground knowledge presented us with a unique opportunity to develop a medicine, by reformulating an existing product, to meet a priority need for newborns in developing countries,’ explains the head of the unit, Dr Pauline Williams.

‘Working alongside academic and charity partners, we’re searching for improvements to interventions known to save lives, to make them more practical, affordable and accessible in resource-limited settings.’  

Lisa Bonadonna

Australian Lisa Bonadonna, leads the Save the Children partnership for GSK globally.

“Applying our research and development expertise in this way is a wonderful example of what we’re trying to do through the partnership. We are using our scientific and business know-how to address the life-threatening issues facing children that Save the Children tackle every day.

“Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in many diverse, multi-layered programmes locally, regionally and also globally. The scale and scope of this partnership is, however, the first time I have seen two so very distinct organisations working together across such a broad range of activities, truly collaboratively,” said Lisa Bonadonna.

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