Monaco officials visit GARDP’s programme in South Africa aimed at improving lives of newborns with sepsis

February 2023 – Leading representatives from the Government of the Principality of Monaco recently visited the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto, near Johannesburg, to see how their funding is having a positive impact on the lives of newborn babies.

Together with other funders, the Monegasque Cooperation is supporting the children’s antibiotics programme led by the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) designed to identify and develop potentially life-saving treatments for newborn babies with antibiotic-resistant infections.

Monaco’s Special Representative for International Cooperation, Bénédicte Schutz, together with Deputy Director of International Cooperation, Yordanos Pasquier, visited the paediatric wards of Africa’s largest hospital, where 60 to 70 babies are born every day. They also met with the Head of Paediatrics, Professor Sithembiso Velaphi and a team of doctors and nurses.

“We were impressed by the quality of care and the long-term vision of the healthcare team. But there is a long way to go to significantly reduce neonatal mortality due to infections. We would like to see the development of new antibiotics and treatments that are tailored towards newborn babies. We will be working with GARDP in the coming years to achieve these goals,” said Ms Schutz.

Bara Monaco group with Prof Velaphi By Kim Cloete

Professor Velaphi led GARDP’s neonatal sepsis observational study at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital from 2018 to 2020. It was one of 19 hospitals in 11 countries involved in GARDP’s study of 3,200 babies, aimed at guiding the care and treatment of babies with sepsis, a virulent bloodstream infection which can have devastating consequences.

Based on research from the observational study, the hospital is embarking on a trial by GARDP and partners, which is evaluating potentially more effective treatment regimens for babies with sepsis.

Despite a rising number of newborn deaths caused by antimicrobial resistance, very few effective antibiotics have been adequately studied to treat serious bacterial infections such as neonatal sepsis.

Professor Velaphi explained the rising challenge of sepsis among newborn babies. Many of the antibiotics that were used to treat infections are not working anymore as the bacteria has become resistant to treatment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. If medication doesn’t work, a baby has a high chance of dying. New combinations of antibiotics are essential to give babies a better chance of life.

Professor Velaphi also introduced some of his dedicated staff members, who go the extra mile for the babies in their care.

Bara nurses Refilwe Khumalo (left) Beauty Modau (right) Feb 2023 (1)

Thanks in part to the Monaco funding, the hospital has been able to employ two research nurses and a doctor who will work specifically on GARDP’s NeoSep1 trial, which kicks off in a few weeks in South Africa.

“We are grateful to the Government of Monaco for helping to support our children’s antibiotics programme in South Africa. Through your interest and much-valued funding we are able to work towards providing a better outcome for newborn babies,” said clinical trial manager, Sibongile Ratlhogo, who leads GARDP’s neonatal sepsis programme in South Africa.