LITTLE Katie McGuire is one of the first babies in Britain to be saved from a rare condition which kills them in the womb.

Her survival means she has joined an elite band of six babies in the world to beat a rare condition which can destroy an unborn baby's heart.

The infant was under threat of dying in the womb because her mother, Rosalin, of Muirend, Glasgow, developed antibodies in her blood which seriously affected her baby.

The warning signs were picked up by doctors when, just over half-way into pregnancy, Katie's heart rate fell to 44 beats per minute. The usual rate is around 150 in babies of that gestation.

Obstetricians at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital were faced with a dilemma because the condition was extremely rare and the babies who previously suffered from it had not survived.

Leading foetal medicine specialist Dr Alan Mathers said: ``In medical terms, it is called anti-Ro La and without treatment the babies do not survive. Older babies can be delivered and treated after birth but our problem here was a baby too ill and far too premature at 23 weeks, to survive outside the womb.

``A search of an international medical database revealed five babies who had recently survived in the States after being successfully treated by cortico-steroids given to the baby through the mother. The steroids cross the placenta and into the baby.

``We got in touch with these doctors and through a series of phone calls and faxes across the Atlantic we embarked on a treatment of injections to reduce the effect of the antibodies on the baby.

``Usually in cases like this, the baby has a high risk of going into heart failure and dying before birth. Katie is the first Scottish baby to survive and perhaps the first in the UK.''

Mrs McGuire, 30, a PE teacher at Our Lady and St Patrick's, Dumbarton, was given 77 injections of steroids. ``It was a small price to pay for a live healthy baby because if your baby risks dying you will do anything to save it,'' she said.

The legacy of her severe heart problem before birth means that Katie had to have a pacemaker fitted by the cardiology team at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.

Her father, Jim, a chemistry teacher at Claremont High, East Kilbride, said: ``We have experienced the facilities of a national health service second to none. Without it, Katie just would not be here today.''