Dimitra Metallinou, Grigorios Karampas, Eleftheria Lazarou, Nikoletta Iacovidou, Panagiota Pervanidou, Katerina Lykeridou, George Mastorakos, Demetrios Rizos
Disruption of normal intrauterine brain development is a significant consequence of premature birth and may lead to serious complications, such as neonatal brain injury (NBI). This prospective case-control longitudinal study aimed at determining the levels and prognostic value of serum activin A during the first three days of life in human premature neonates which later developed NBI. It was conducted in a single tertiary hospital and eligible participants were live-born premature (<34 weeks) neonates. Each case (n = 29) developed NBI in the form of an intraventricular haemorrhage, or periventricular leukomalacia, and was matched according to birth weight and gestational age to one neonate with normal head ultrasound scans. Serum activin A levels in both groups showed a stable concentration during the first three days of life as no difference was observed within the two groups from the first to the third day. Neonates diagnosed with NBI had significantly higher activin A levels during the first two days of life compared to control neonates and its levels correlated to the severity of NBI during the second and third day of life. Although serum activin A on the second day was the best predictor for neonates at risk to develop NBI, the overall predictive value was marginally fair (area under the ROC-curve 69.2%). Activin A, in combination with other biomarkers, may provide the first clinically useful panel for the early detection of premature neonates at high risk of NBI.