New study to examine gestational diabetes in PNG

Burnet Institute

18 January, 2017

Image: Women waiting at Nonga Hospital, Rabaul, PNG

Pregnant women in Australia are routinely tested for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), but it’s a different story in PNG.

Despite high levels of type 2 diabetes in the Pacific nation, little is known about the prevalence of GDM, and pregnant women are rarely screened.

New research by Burnet Institute hopes to change this. Funded with a grant from the Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation, doctoral researcher Tope Adepoyibi will explore the use of alternative GDM diagnostic tests more suitable for local conditions.

“GDM increases the risk of serious complications during and after pregnancy, for mothers and infants, in particular high maternal blood pressure and high fetal weight,” Ms Adepoyibi said.

“It is possible to control and treat GDM with diet and insulin, but you need to know it’s there early.”

Australian women are routinely tested at around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy by collection of samples after a period of fasting and then ingestion of a high sugar drink, a process that can require multiple clinic visits. Blood samples are then sent offsite for testing in centralized laboratories.

“These tests are impractical for many PNG women who may have to travel long distances on foot to reach antenatal clinics, and who may only present once for antenatal care,” Ms Adepoyibi said.

“We plan to test for GDM using alternative diagnostic tests that do not require fasting and that are available in a point-of-care format. These tests are more appropriate for resource-poor settings.”

However, data is lacking on their potential value and application, something the research will address as part of Burnet’s Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies project. The research team also includes members from University of New South Wales and Baker IDI.

The Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation has had a special interest in GDM since its inception in 1981. Professor Beischer was the founding Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Mercy Hospital for Women.

Contact Details

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Burnet Institute

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