Saving Kids’ Lives

Dr. Steven Schiff gets a look at a baby with hydrocephalus in a Ugandan village in 2008.
Dr. Steven Schiff gets a look at a baby with hydrocephalus in a Ugandan village in 2008.

It is a great honor to announce that we are partnering with Dr. Steven Schiff to track down what makes babies sick around the world and find ways to prevent the devastating consequences of newborn infections. Such infections continue to take the lives of nearly a million babies a year globally, and in the survivors generate the largest group of infant hydrocephalus cases and the greatest need for neurosurgery in young children worldwide. Post-infectious hydrocephalus, and the neonatal sepsis that causes it, are the largest-scale killer of children globally for which the medical community, governmental agencies, and global health organizations, have ignored. The yearly death toll in infants is several times that of malaria in all ages.

With support from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Schiff and his team now know what’s making babies sick in Uganda, and have developed the technology to unravel the mystery of newborn infections in other countries. Once we know the causes of infection, we can work on ways of preventing and better treating such infections to prevent the huge toll that these brain infections take on children all over the world.

Dr. Schiff and members of his team preparing samples for shipment and analysis.

Dr. Ben Warf, founder and chairman of Neuro Kids, shared, “With Steve Schiff and his colleagues on our team, we are uniquely positioned to work toward preventing post-infectious infant hydrocephalus around the world, working region by region, disseminating cutting edge methods and protocols of treating infant hydrocephalus and simultaneously learning what causes these infections.” Over the next few years, Dr. Schiff will couple this sample collection and analysis work with Neuro Kids’ treatment and training centers in strategic countries around the world.

As a physician and scientist, and as a father, I am struck by how much we do not know about newborn infections in developing countries. I am concerned that one reason is that the newborn infants who die there have no political voice. I have dedicated my professional life to this problem because I know of no more important problem that we can have such a huge impact upon in our lifetimes.

Dr. Steven Schiff

Dr. Schiff is a pediatric neurosurgeon with interests in neural control engineering, sustainable health engineering and global health. He founded the Center for Neural Engineering at Penn State University, wrote the first book on Neural Control Engineering (MIT Press, 2012), and is now developing the Center for Global Neurosurgery at Yale University. He received the NIH Director’s Pioneer and Transformative Awards in 2015 and 2018, respectively, which have enabled him to pursue his interests in the sustainable control of infant infections in the developing world. This work has evolved into an exploration of what Schiff calls Predictive Personalized Public Health (P3H).