World-first trial compares cow- and pig-derived surfactants to help premature babies breathe

August 2, 2017

When babies are born prematurely in Canada, they have traditionally been given surfactant derived from cows to help them breathe properly, if required. This fatty substance coats the tiny airs sacs in the lungs, making it easier for them to open and close and for the baby to breathe easier. In contrast, babies in Europe and the U.S. typically receive surfactant derived from pigs. Experts have often wondered which is better, but Dr. Brigitte Lemyre was the first to try to answer this question with a randomized controlled clinical trial. Dr. Lemyre and her colleagues enrolled 87 preterm babies from The Ottawa Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences and the Royal Alexandra Hospital into the study. While they didn’t find any significant difference in survival, they did find that babies who received the pig surfactant required less oxygen support. A larger trial is being discussed. See PLOS ONE for details.

Dr. Lemyre is a neonatologist and clinician investigator at The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

Authors: Lemyre B, Fusch C, Schmölzer GM, Rouvinez Bouali N, Reddy D, Barrowman N, Huneault-Purney N, Lacaze-Masmonteil T

Funding: This study was supported by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Chiesi Farmaceutici (in-kind). Clinical trials at The Ottawa Hospital are possible because of generous support from the community for Research to Improve Patient Care.

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