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The nursery needs discoveries
  1. V Harrison
  1. Correspondence to:
    Associate Prof. V Harrison
    School of Child and Adolescent Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Klipfontein Road, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa; costello{at}

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Neonatologists need to readdress the factors that influenced past discoveries

“To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always”

The care of newborn babies has been enhanced significantly by these objectives, but in recent times the pace of discoveries for curing has slowed considerably.


Consider the therapeutic advances over four decades, the two preceding and the two following 1980. The first period was characterised by a significant decline in neonatal morbidity and mortality. It was highlighted by the prevention of haemorrhagic disease, tetanus, rhesus disease, rubella, apnoea of prematurity, hypoglycaemia, and hyaline membrane disease. Further contributions included phototherapy, resuscitation, intermittent positive pressure ventilation, and continuous positive airways pressure. A golden age of therapy indeed!

By contrast the second period looks rather sparse. It heralded the prevention of neural tube defects, but then the pace of discovery slackened. With the exceptions of surfactant and kangaroo care, advances …

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