The use of aminoglycoside antibiotics can lead to profound deafness when given to children with a particular genetic make up. The study cost £30,617 and was funded by children’s medical research charity, Sparks.
Previous studies by Dr Maria Bitner-Glindzicz and Dr Shamima Rahman have shown that children with a particular genetic mutation, present in approximately 1 in 500 children, are placed at a high risk of hearing loss if prescribed aminoglycoside antibiotics. As a result, the team argue that there is a strong case for the genetic testing of children before administering these antibiotics.
This latest study compared levels of hearing loss in middle-aged adults both with and without the genetic mutation. No difference was found, which indicates that the mutation alone is not responsible for hearing loss. This new evidence strengthens the case for genetic testing prior to treatment with aminoglycoside antibiotics.
Aminoglycoside antibiotics are used in hospitals around the world every day for the treatment and prevention of serious infections. They are cheap and highly effective but with known side effects linked to excess dosage such as permanent loss of hearing. However some children go deaf even if doses are within normal limits.
Dr Maria Bitner-Glindzicz, GOSHCC Reader in Clinical and Molecular Genetics, at the UCL Institute of Child Health, comments, "This research has reinforced the need for the screening of children before they are prescribed aminoglycoside antibiotics and will allow doctors to use alternative medicine if necessary."
"We can now look towards building a strong case for the NHS screening of vulnerable groups of babies and children hospitalised with serious infections such as leukaemia, before being prescribed these antibiotics."
Dr Renny Leach, Director of Research at Sparks, added, "As a charity, we fund pioneering medical research which will help improve quality of life or the treatment of childhood conditions and this important piece of research could fulfill both criteria. With further investigation this research has the potential to save the hearing of thousands of babies and children."
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Notes to Editors
Hearing in 44-45 year olds with m.1555A>G, a genetic mutation predisposing to aminoglycoside-induced deafness: a population based cohort study has now been published by BMJ Open.
Dr Maria Bitner-Glindzicz and Dr Shamima Rahman are supported by Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity as GOSHCC Research Leaders.
Sparks, the children’s medical research charity, is dedicated to funding research into conditions affecting mothers-to-be, babies and children. Our vision is a world where every baby is born healthy and stays healthy.
Since 1991, Sparks has committed over £20 million into pioneering research projects across a wide spectrum of medical conditions including childhood cancers, cerebral palsy, premature birth and spina bifida.
The research we fund is across the whole of the UK with many of our medical breakthroughs having a global impact. We only fund research that is intended to have a practical and positive impact on the lives of babies and children.