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Fast-tracked research to fight swine flu - DH press release

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Fourteen projects costing £2.25m have been fast  tracked by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)on behalf of the Department of Health for urgent national  swine flu research. The priority studies will be launched this week and will provide vital clinical and scientific evidence  that will inform the Government’s response to the virus in the coming months.

Results are expected by the end of the year, and will  bolster the body of evidence available to experts who advise the Government on how to protect British people. The work will be led by research centres in Leicester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Manchester and London.

One study, led by Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam of the  University of Nottingham and the Health Protection Agency, will estimate how long someone is contagious for and advise on  a ‘safe distance’ from the patient. This will be done by  taking daily nose swabs from those with swine flu over a  period of at least one week. The research team will measure  how much virus is in the nose and how quickly it disappears.  

They will also take samples from hard surfaces and the air  around the patient. Using this data they aim to work out how  much virus is being excreted and whether the virus is more  prominent on surfaces or in the air. The research will be carried out in children as well as adults as children appear to hold on to the virus for longer. The results of this research will be available to the NHS in  the autumn.  

Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam said: “Very little is currently known about the H1N1 virus which  makes it very hard to predict the numbers of people likely to catch it and how best to treat them. For example, we do not know how long the virus is excreted by infected humans and how much virus is spread to surfaces and carried in the air.”

Additional research projects have been commissioned into  the management and treatment of swine flu. One of these studies, led by Professor Steve Goodacre of the University of Sheffield, is evaluating measures that could be routinely  recorded in emergency departments to predict which patients  with suspected swine flu should be admitted to hospital.  Other research projects include:  

  • assessing school closure effectiveness in preventing  spread. This would enable local decisions on if and when  school closures would be appropriate;
  • measuring facemask effectiveness for healthcare workers;
  • managing swine flu in pregnant women so that treatment  and care gives maximum benefit to mother and baby; and
  • how to identify critical care priorities. This will help  clinicians make crucial decisions on how best to use resources when treating patients.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Director General of  Research and Development at the Department of Health  said: “We are rapidly learning about the emerging swine flu risk  profile - solid clinical and scientific evidence must be at the heart of this. “The research projects announced today will ensure the UK  remains well armed to respond to swine flu, help prevent  infection, and save lives.”

 

Contacts:  

Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221
Email: NDS.DH@coi.gsi.gov.uk
  
Notes:
The studies will be funded by the NIHR, with contributions  from the CSO in Scotland, WORD in Wales and the Research and  Development Office in Northern Ireland.
 
The studies to be funded are:

1. An analysis of swine flu  virus present in the nose, on surfaces and in the air led by  Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam, University of Nottingham  and the Health Protection Agency.

2. An evaluation of methods  used to select patients with suspected swine flu for hospital  admission led by Professor Steve Goodacre, University of  Sheffield.

3. A multi-centre  head-to-head comparison of two vaccines in adults led by  Professor Karl Nicholson University Hospitals of Leicester NHS  Trust.

4. An assessment of changing  antibody prevalence in different age groups led by Professor  Elizabeth Miller, Health Protection Agency.

5. An examination of the  effectiveness of facemasks in preventing infection of  healthcare staff in patients undergoing non-invasive  ventilation, led by Dr Anita Simonds, Royal Brompton Hospital.  

6. An analysis of a triage  method to help predict those who ‘need’ or would ‘benefit’  from intensive care services during the swine flu pandemic led  by Professor Kathy Rowan, Intensive Care National Audit and  Research Centre.

7. An analysis of public  responses to swine flu communications led by Professor Susan  Michie, University College London.

8. An evaluation of the  impact of school closure and social interaction on illness led  by Dr Kenneth Eames, London School of Hygiene and Tropical  Medicine.
 
9. An investigation into the  effect of influenza and its treatments on pregnancy led by  Professor Simon Thomas, Newcastle University.

10. Autopsies of patients who died of pandemic flu  led by Professor Sebastian Lucas, KCL School of Medicine.

11. An observational study of immunity in pregnant  women vaccinated against swine flu and their babies led by Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam, University of Nottingham  and the Health Protection Agency.

12. A head-to-head comparison of swine influenza  vaccines in children aged six months to 12 years led by Professor Elizabeth Miller, Health Protection Agency.

13. An assessment of the information support needed  by people with respiratory disease during a pandemic led by Dr  Ann-Louise Caress, University of Manchester.

14. An evaluation of vaccine effectiveness and safety  in pandemic flu led by Dr Colin Simpson, University of  Edinburgh.

Click here for more details
 
The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained  and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides  the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to  conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its  partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and  training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals  (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class  facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients.
 
NETSCC manages five research programmes on behalf of the  National Institute for Health Research: The Efficacy Mechanism  and evaluation (EME) programmes, the Health Services Research  (HSR) programme, the Health Technology Assessment (HTA)  programme, the Public Health Research (PHR) programme, and the  Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) programme.

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