The new Capricornia Centre for Mucosal Immunology has been established under the leadership of Professor Jennelle Kyd, whose research on immunity and vaccines is recognized internationally.
Professor Kyd is collaborating with researchers in Australia, Europe and the USA and is working with major pharmaceutical companies on the research and development of patents to the clinical trials stage for a range of new therapies.
"We currently treat respiratory infections with antibiotics but we need to find better preventative therapies otherwise we’ll continue increase the emergence of bacteria that are drug resistant. Vaccines offer the best strategy for long term prevention of infections," she said.
One of the major focus areas of the Centre is middle ear infection - the most common childhood illness for which medical advice is sought and antibiotics administered.
Up to 80% of Australian children have at least one episode of middle ear infection in their first 3 years and about one third of these will suffer recurrent or chronic middle ear infections.
Professor Kyd said while the new paediatric pneumococcal vaccine targets some of the problem bacteria, but there is a gap in vaccine coverage, meaning that children still become infected by the other bacteria that cause the same type of infection. Many children suffer pain, require repeated courses of antibiotics, and some go on to need tubes inserted to control the chronic infections. The consequence of persistent middle ear infections is hearing impairment that can result in delays in speech and language development.
The Centre is seeking to improve vaccine technologies and non-injection type delivery systems for protection against a range of respiratory bacterial infections.
As part of the strategy, the Centre is examining the interactions between the various bacteria involved in the respiratory systems to see how they compete and interact with each other, thus influencing the likelihood of an infection.
"We are also trying to identify why Indigenous kids are even more prone to middle ear infections. A controlled study has shown that socio-economic reasons do not fully explain this propensity, and many of our indigenous children succumb to middle ear infections at an earlier age and go on to suffer serious recurrent or chronic middle ear infections."
The Centre not only undertakes basic research but is also collaborating with others on vaccine R&D, clinical trials, health issues and vaccine systems around the world.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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