A new supplement could reduce the risk of spina bifida.
Researchers are investigating a treatment that could work alongside folic acid to boost its effectiveness in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
It would be given to women in early pregnancy.
Women are already encouraged to take folic acid for the first three months of pregnancy to reduce the chance of their baby developing neural tube defects.
Although highly effective, folic acid cannot prevent the occurrence of all these conditions.
Spina bifida affects one in 1000 babies. It leads to partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs.
In a new study, published in the journal Brain, researchers tested a new drug on pregnant mice. It found that it reduced the occurrence of neural tube defects by 85%.
The Institute of Child Health, the research partner of Great Ormond Street, undertook the research. Nicholas Greene, professor of developmental neurobiology at the ICH, said: “We are still in the early stages of this research, but we hope that these promising results in mice can eventually be replicated [in] humans.
“If it is found to be effective, this nucleotide treatment could boost the effects of folic acid and offer expectant mothers an even more reliable safeguard against relatively common defects like spina bifida.
“It’s important to emphasise that folic acid supplements remain the most effective prevention against neural tube defects currently available. I would strongly urge women to continue taking folic acid in its current form.”