Infant health research

Medical research supported by the March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy. Major accomplishments include the development of certain newborn screening tests. Grantees developed the first screens for inborn errors of body chemistry including phenylketonuria (PKU), biotinidase deficiency, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and hyperthyroidism. Today the March of Dimes recommends that all babies be screened for 31 disorders that, without prompt treatment, can result in serious health problems, brain damage or even death..

Maternal health issues

Research grantees are conducting studies on maternal health conditions that contribute to premature birth, birth defects, reduced birthweight, newborn illness and death, and childhood health problems. They are looking at chronic conditions (such as diabetes and obesity), pregnancy complications (such as preeclampsia and placental problems) and infections. For example, grantees are currently seeking to develop treatments to prevent mothers from passing dangerous infections, such as toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, and herpes on to their babies during pregnancy or delivery.

Keeping childhood infections at bay

Grantees are working to prevent or improve the treatment of childhood infections and chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes and autism. Infants, especially those born prematurely, have immature immune systems that are not efficient at fighting off bacteria that can cause dangerous infections, such as meningitis and sepsis (blood infection). Some grantees are seeking to develop improved drug treatments for dangerous newborn infections, which are a common cause of death and lasting disabilities in premature infants.