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Project information

New test for women at risk of premature birth

The aim is to develop a new screening test for women to identify, in early pregnancy, those at increased risk of going into labour too soon. The hope is that this test will help save babies' lives and reduce the risk of babies who survive premature birth developing long-term disabilities.

June 2018 - May 2020

Charity information: Action Medical Research

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  • Need


    In the UK, more than 61,000 babies are born prematurely – before 37 weeks of pregnancy – each year. Sadly, more than 1,000 will die. Children who survive can experience lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, blindness and hearing loss. Although the causes of preterm birth are often not understood, one factor may be how a woman’s body deals with mild vaginal infections during pregnancy.


    Dr Rachel Tribe at King’s College London aims to develop a new screening test to help identify pregnant women who are at increased risk of early delivery. The focus of the project is building a better understanding of how women's bodies fight mild vaginal infections during pregnancy - and then developing a test for use in early pregnancy. Dr Tribe hopes this will help save children’s lives and reduce the potentially tragic consequences of being born too soon.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Develop a new test to identify, in early pregnancy, women at greater risk of early labour


    » Researchers will examine the exosome defence system in samples collected from women in early pregnancy – comparing prem and full-term birth data

    What success will look like

    The team also plan a series of laboratory experiments to improve their understanding of how exosomes work and how they may help protect pregnant women from complications.

  • Impact


    The researchers hope that a new screening test for women in early pregnancy that helps identify those at risk of going into early labour will enable the appropriate steps to be taken to protect babies from being born too soon - sparing families from the shock, worry and heartache of a premature birth and helping reduce the potentially tragic consequences.


    No risks currently identified.


    After the study has finished, the researchers will provide a full report, measuring achievement against objectives. Action will write a ‘lay’ version of this, called an impact report, and we’ll look to communicate this through our Touching Lives magazine and the media.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £110,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £110,000 Researcher costs Funding a project team of researchers at St Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College London
  • Background


    This project is taking place at Department of Women and Children’s Health, St Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College London. The faculty has an international reputation for advanced research.

    Dr Rachel Tribe leads an excellent team who are well-known for their high-quality research and outstanding track record in this field.

    They are also collaborating with global leaders in exosome research and those at the forefront of identifying premature birth markers.


    Pregnant women who are at increased risk of early delivery, and their babies.

    The experience of premature birth can be heartrending for families; mothers often speak of the feelings of shock, guilt and fear they experience.

    Babies born prematurely are extremely vulnerable to illness and infection, and
    children who survive can experience lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, blindness and hearing loss.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    With more than 65 years’ experience, Action Medical Research is the leading UK-wide charity funding vital research to help sick and disabled babies and children. Through our gold standard peer review system, we find and fund research most likely to deliver real benefit to children.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dr Rachel M Tribe, PhD FPhysiol FRSB

    Lead researcher