New weapon against spina bifida

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New research suggests that a B vitamin called inositol may be able to play a crucial role in the fight to prevent spina bifida.

It is already known that folic acid can prevent up to 75 per cent of spina bifida (also known as neural tube defects) in babies, if taken in the month before pregnancy and during the first months after conception, but for some women folic acid does not seem to be effective. However, a recent study by a team from the Institute of Child Health, University College London, suggests that inositol may help to prevent those neural tube defects that cannot be prevented by folic acid.
Spina bifida, a serious birth defect, occurs very early in pregnancy, when the brain and spine are forming, and many pregnancies are terminated when the condition is diagnosed using ultrasound.

A new trial is now underway to determine if inositol and folic acid taken together could prevent almost all cases of spina bifida if taken at the right time.

The Chief Executive of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Jackie Bland, welcomed the findings of the study. “If proven, the combination of folic acid and inositol would give us the formula we need to prevent thousands of women undergoing the trauma of discovering their baby has a neural tube defect and the agonising decisions that follow”, she said. However, Ms Bland also stressed the importance of all women of childbearing age taking a daily folic acid supplement, available over the counter, while the research trial goes on.

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