Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Researchers from Oxford’s Department of Paediatrics have discovered that infection can increase a baby’s sensitivity to pain, which may last longer than the infection.

Adult holding an infant's hand © Shutterstock

In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers observed 65 newborn babies who had received a standard heel-prick blood test to look for signs of potential infection. When a baby’s blood test result suggested they may have an infection, which required further antibiotic treatment, the researchers continued to look for signs of pain or discomfort.

They found that babies with laboratory markers of inflammation associated with infection (raised C-Reactive Protein, (CRP) levels in blood) displayed more sensitivity to pain. This was measured by recording changes in each baby’s brain activity, leg reflex withdrawal activity, facial expression and heart rate in response to a clinically-required heel prick blood test.

These babies were also more sensitive to touch, which is consistent with clinical reports that infections can make babies more irritable. While behavioural signs of pain, such as facial grimacing, did not appear to be exaggerated by the presence of inflammation, this may be because fighting an infection can cause babies to be more lethargic and fatigued.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website. 

Similar stories

EAVI2020: The Quest for an HIV Vaccine

In this long read published to coincide with International AIDS Day, we explore how an international collaboration – of which the University of Oxford is a key partner – has boosted HIV vaccine research. We thank our partners at Imperial College London for allowing us to reproduce and abridge this article.

New SMRU building opened in Thailand to provide health care to marginalized populations

The inauguration of a new joint Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) and Borderland Health Foundation (BHF) Building took place in Mae Ramat, Thailand, this week.

Smoking increases the risks of 56 diseases in Chinese adults

Smoking increases the risks of 56 diseases and kills more than one million adults in China each year from 22 different causes, according to new research published in The Lancet Public Health.

Success for Oxford researchers in The Genetics Society 2023 Awards

Researchers from Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Radcliffe Department of Medicine and Nuffield Department of Population Health have been recgonised in The Genetics Society 2023 awards.

New Studentship honours Enzo Cerundolo

A new Studentship has been announced in memory of the late MRC HIU Director and MRC WIMM Group Leader.