Using ultrasound to diagnose infections during pregnancy

Research taking place in Tommy’s Edinburgh centre has shown that ultrasound is a promising way of detecting infection early.
  • Authors list

    Sarah Stock, Matt Kemp, John Newnham, Scott White, Basky Thilaganathan

This research study is now complete

Infection in the womb during pregnancy can harm the growing baby, and lead to premature labour. Often, these infections aren’t obvious. But, it’s vital to find them early so they can be treated before they do any harm, or the baby can be delivered if it is struggling.

Research taking place in Tommy’s Edinburgh Centre is looking at how ultrasound can be used to find inflammation and infection during pregnancy. So far, they have found that special ultrasound scans can detect when there is an infection in pregnant sheep. This works by picking up changes in the way the baby’s heart works when there is an infection present.

Clinical impact

Based on non-invasive ultrasound technology, this could allow for the timely diagnosis of the infection that causes a majority of extreme preterm birth. This test will be safe, rapid and allow for swift treatment to prevent preterm labour and injury to the developing baby.

Research papers

  • Payne, M.S., et al., Intrauterine Candida albicans infection elicits severe inflammation in fetal sheep. Pediatric research, 2014.
  • Stock et al, Spectral Tissue Doppler Imaging demonstrates cardiac dysfunction in response to intrauterine infection in fetal sheep. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 122:4-4 · April 2015



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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by the British Maternal and Fetal Society, the University of Western Australia, and Sparks Charity