Preeclampsia in pregnancy cure hope


Preeclampsia can strike unsuspecting mothers at any time during pregnancy. It occurs when the preeclamptic placenta releases toxins that spread throughout the mother’s circulation. These toxins damage blood vessels and injure major organs including the liver, kidneys, brain (causing fits), lungs and the blood clotting system.

Sadly, there is currently no treatment for preeclampsia other than to deliver the baby. When preeclampsia strikes at a preterm stage in pregnancy (<37 weeks gestation), doctors may be forced to deliver the baby early to save the mother’s life. Prematurity puts babies at risk of death, disability and cerebral palsy.

However, TOG and their international collaborators have discovered the possibility that proton pump inhibitors, used by millions of people to treat gastric reflux and indigestion, could be used to treat preeclampsia.

Dr Natalie Hannan is the senior author of the study, the findings of which have just been published in the prestigious international journal Hypertension.

The TOG team has already set up a major clinical trial based at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The team from Mercy Hospital for Women is collaborating with the local South African investigator, Dr Cathy Cluver. The trial will test whether the proton pump inhibitor esomeprazole (or Nexium) can be used to treat women diagnosed with preeclampsia very early in pregnancy.

The PIE (Preeclampsia Intervention with Esomeprazole) trial is in its final stages and will provide an answer this year. Further trials in Australia are also planned.