An antiseptic gel developed from mouthwash has been used to help to protect Kenyan babies from life threatening infections.
Scientists at GlaxoSmithKline created the product from the chlorhexidine solution which is found in Corsodyl. It is rubbed into newly cut umbilical cords and kills bacteria.
Infection is a major cause of newborn mortality, which can be caused by bacteria entering the body through a newly-cut umbilical cord. This is more likely to happen in low-income settings across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where more births take place at home and unsterile materials, such as dung and ash, may traditionally be used on the umbilical cord stump. In 2012, a United Nations Commission Report named chlorhexidine for newborn cord care as an overlooked ‘life-saving commodity’ that, if more widely accessed and properly used, could potentially save 422,000 neonatal lives over five years.
In response, GSK worked to reformulate the antiseptic solution used in its Corsodyl™ mouthwash into a gel (chlorhexidine digluconate gel 7.1%, equivalent to 4% chlorhexidine), incorporating Save the Children’s expertise in reaching some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children. Insights and guidance from Save the Children informed key decisions in the development programme.
Charity Save the Children has been working with the company to formulate the product for use in developing countries where around 28% of newborn deaths are due to infection.
Patrick Vallance, president, pharmaceuticals R&D, GSK, commented: “A bright idea from one of our scientists – who recognised we could transform an ingredient in our mouthwash into a medicine – has come to fruition thanks to the power of partnership. By combining our development and manufacturing expertise, in both pharmaceuticals and consumer health, with Save the Children’s on-the-ground knowledge of local healthcare systems and communities, we have developed a simple gel to help protect vulnerable newborns from infection. This is a real illustration of how collaboration can stimulate imaginative responses to tough challenges.”
The product will be sold at a not-for-profit price and was recently approved for use in Liberia after being endorsed by the European Medicines Agency.