SYDNEY, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- A tablet commonly used to treat reflux could prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, potentially saving thousands of lives, Australian researchers have discovered.
Pre-eclampsia is a disease that develops in pregnant women whereby toxins are released from the placenta, damaging organs and killing up to 60,000 women worldwide every year.
It has no medical treatment and often forces expecting mothers to deliver their babies dangerously early.
But a group of international researchers, led by a team from Melbourne's Mercy Hospital for Women at the University of Melbourne, have discovered that Nexium, a drug used to decrease the amount of acid produced in the stomach, can block the production of the toxic proteins.
"Currently there is no option for women," Natalie Hannan, a obstretrics and gynaecology expert from the Royal Women's Hospital, told News Limited on Tuesday.
"This is the first time we've even had the possibility of treatment on the radar and it's as simple as a tablet.
"It would be a major step forward."
Early lab tests have indicated that the tablet can limit the toxins which damage blood vessels and attack major organs, including the liver, kidney and brain in women with pre-eclampsia.
"This means that women will be able to take this simple medication and make it to a later stage of pregnancy," Hannan said.
"The benefit for the baby is that they will be able to stay inside mum for longer if we can keep her healthy. As we all know, babies delivered early can have a really tough time so that is important."
The laboratory research was published Wednesday in international journal Hypertension.
The first clinical trial of the drug will begin in South Africa with further tests planned in Australia later in 2017.