Surfactant deficiency was identified as the cause of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) as long ago as 1959. Trials of surfactant replacement in the 1960s were unsuccessful because the preparations used contained only phospholipids and they were administered inefficiently by nebulization. In the 1970s Bengt Robertson and Göran Enhörning showed that natural surfactant, containing both phospholipids and proteins, could ameliorate the signs of RDS in immature rabbits. In the 1980s Bengt Robertson and Tore Curstedt developed a porcine surfactant, Curosurf® (named after their surnames), which was effective in immature animals and was used in a pilot clinical trial beginning in 1983. Subsequent randomized clinical trials were planned a year later by Bengt Robertson, Tore Curstedt and Henry Halliday, and the first trial was begun in 1985. This showed that Curosurf reduced pulmonary air leaks and neonatal mortality in preterm infants with severe RDS. A second trial, coordinated by Christian Speer, demonstrated that multiple doses of Curosurf were more effective than a single dose. Subsequent trials conducted by the Collaborative European Multicenter Study Group, which included among others Guilio Bevilacqua, Janna Koppe, Ola Saugstad, Nils Svenningsen and Jean-Pierre Relier, showed that early treatment was more effective than later administration and that infants treated at birth had similar neurodevelopmental status to untreated controls at a corrected age of 2 years. Members of the Collaborative European Multicenter Study Group in Denmark and Sweden performed studies to demonstrate the benefits of a combination of surfactant treatment and early continuous positive airway pressure. Curosurf has also been compared with several synthetic and natural surfactants, and at a dose of 200 mg/kg Curosurf has been shown to be superior to either Survanta® or Curosurf used at a dose of 100 mg/kg. Recently, new-generation synthetic surfactants containing both phospholipids and proteins have been developed. After preclinical testing, CHF5633 (developed by Tore Curstedt and Jan Johansson in collaboration with Chiesi Farmaceutici) has undergone a preliminary first study in humans under the guidance of Christian Speer. If effective, this new surfactant preparation could revolutionize the treatment of preterm infants worldwide as it could be made consistently and safely in almost unlimited quantities. This story of a porcine surfactant preparation has been truly remarkable, and many thousands of preterm babies worldwide are now alive and well because of it.

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