What are neonatal seizures?

Neonatal seizures are those that occur in infants during the first 28 days of life. Why some neonates have seizures is not completely understood, but possible reasons are hypoxia-ischemia (lack of oxygen), hemorrhage, infection like meningitis, and exposure to toxic drugs, such as alcohol, methadone, and heroin. Neonatal seizures are important to understand and treat because they may be associated with long-term cognitive and developmental delays.

Diagnosing and Treating Neonatal Seizures

Diagnosis of neonatal seizures is done by video-EEG, imaging, and a blood test to check for metabolic deficiencies.

Neonatal seizures are usually treated with phenobarbital. This is a drug that acts via the inhibitory GABAergic system. However, in a neonate, GABAergic neurotransmission hasn’t fully developed, making it a suboptimal treatment strategy. Hence, there is a need to explore alternative targets and drugs for neonatal seizures.

Study Looks at Flupirtine as an Effective Treatment for Neonatal Seizures

The authors of a recent study asked whether flupirtine might be beneficial in neonatal seizures. Flupirtine is a compound that is already used as an analgesic. It acts by opening potassium (K+) channels causing a decrease in neuronal excitability.

The hypothesis of this study was that flupirtine would be beneficial in an animal model of neonatal seizures caused by global ischemia. After making sure that the experimental procedures did not cause undue pain to the rat pups used in the study, the scientists observed the animals for electroencephalogram (EEG) and seizure behavior caused by hypoxia with and without flupirtine. Multiple doses of flupirtine were used to get a better idea of its treatment profile.

The authors found that flupirtine decreased the occurrence of behavioral seizures and EEG activity associated with such seizure activity. More studies need to be done to observe whether flupirtine is effective in individuals with neonatal seizures, but this study provides promising results.

Authored by: Sloka Iyengar PhD | Basic Science Editor