Study finds sweet solution for neonatal condition

A cheap and easy-to-administer dextrose gel should be used as a first-line to treatment for low blood sugars in newborns, according to a new Kiwi research.

NeonatalNeonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) affects 5-15% of newborns and, in severe cases, can lead to brain damage. Treatment can require intravenous glucose and admission to an intensive care unit, separating baby from mother.

Now a randomised trial in New Zealand has shown that massaging a small amount of inexpensive dextrose (a type of sugar) gel on the inside of a baby’s cheek is an effective first-line treatment for the condition, halving the likelihood of further blood-sugar issues and reducing ICU admissions in comparison to placebo.

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Auckland and Waikato Hospital, was published this week in the leading medical journal The Lancet.

The ‘Sugar Babies’ study followed 514 at-risk babies born at Waikato Women’s Hospital in Hamilton between 2008 and 2010. Babies who developed hypoglycemia were randomly assigned to one of two groups, receiving either 40% dextrose gel or a placebo gel for up to six doses over 48 hours – in addition to standard care. The babies who received dextrose gel were half as likely to exhibit further substantial drops in blood sugar levels and less likely to be admitted to intensive care for hypoglycaemia

“Dextrose gel treatment costs roughly $2 per baby and could help reduce admissions to neonatal intensive care for treatment with intravenous glucose-not only reducing costs but importantly, keeping mothers and babies together to encourage breastfeeding,” said study leader Professor Jane Harding from the University of Auckland in a media release.

The study has been covered widely in both national and international media. New Zealand examples include:

New Zealand Herald: Sweet gel treats ‘sugar babies’
TVNZ News: Sugar babies Dextrose Gel Trial Prevented Brain Damage
New Zealand Doctor: Gel can help babies with low blood sugar
Radio New Zealand: NZ research set to improve care of thousands of babies
Newstalk ZB: Deborah Harris: Sugar gel for babies
Waikato Times: Sugar Babies’ sweet success
Yahoo! NZ News: Cheap solution for babies with low blood sugar
New Zealand Herald: Cheap gel helps newborns with low blood sugar – study

Overseas coverage includes:

The Guardian: Dextrose ‘wards off brain damage in newborns with low blood sugar level’
BBC News: ‘Sugar gel’ helps premature babies
Science News: Dextrose rub helps newborns with low blood sugar
Medical News Today: Dextrose gel could treat hypoglycemia in newborns
The National post: Simple dextrose gel can treat low blood sugar in newborns: Lancet study