Dr Ajit Mahaveer, a British Indian doctor based in Manchester, is part of the team whose research for a world-first genetic test that could save the hearing of hundreds of babies annually recently won the New Statesman Positive Impact in Healthcare Award.
The team, which is based at Saint Mary’s Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), worked with the University of Manchester and Manchester-based firm Genedrive PLC. on the Pharmacogenetics to Avoid Loss of Hearing (PALOH) study. Together, they developed the pioneering, rapid bedside genetic test which was piloted at MFT earlier this year.
Using a cheek swab, the test can identify in 26 minutes whether a critically ill baby admitted to intensive care has a gene change that could result in permanent hearing loss if they are treated with a common emergency antibiotic, Gentamicin.
While Gentamicin is used to safely treat approximately 100,000 babies a year, one in 500 babies carry the gene change that can lead to permanent hearing loss when given the antibiotic.
The new test means that babies found to have the genetic variant can be given an alternative antibiotic within the ‘golden hour’ and could save the hearing of 200 babies in England every year.
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This new swab test technique replaces a test that traditionally took several days and is the first use of a rapid point of care genetic test in acute neonatal care. It is also expected the test could save the NHS £5 million every year by reducing the need for other interventions, such as cochlear implants.
Dr Mahaveer, who is a Consultant Neonatologist, said: "I am incredibly proud to be part of the team who made this study a reality and to be recognised at this year’s  New Statesman Positive Impact Awards. It’s an honour to accept the award on behalf of the team, knowing the work we have put into delivering this research will truly make a difference to hundreds of babies’ lives each year.
“As a doctor dealing daily with infection, my main concern was how easy and quickly the test was to conduct, as it’s important that we do not delay antibiotic treatment. Our experience of using this test has been very positive. It’s straight-forward, non-invasive and will have a huge impact on our patients’ lives.”
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‘The New Statesman’ is a political and cultural magazine in the United Kingdom, founded in 1913 as a weekly review and today a print-digital hybrid and a well-known title in the UK. Their New Statesman Award has 12 categories and aims celebrate and recognise teams or individuals who have showed leadership and brought about positive change across business, politics, society and the environment.