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Study into common childhood illness opens in Leicester


Researchers at Leicester’s Hospitals are looking for volunteers aged between six and 16 years old to take part in a study to evaluate a new vaccine against pertussis – also known as ‘whooping cough’.

Whooping cough – so named because of the recognisable ‘whoop’ sound made when the sufferer gasps between coughs – is caused by a germ (bacterial infection) of the lungs and breathing tubes. Other signs and symptoms include coughing bouts that are worse at night, and bringing up thick mucus. 

Whooping cough spreads very easily and can be very dangerous for young babies, in some cases leading to pneumonia and seizures (fits). The effects of the infection can last for more than 3 months.

Babies and children are routinely vaccinated against whooping cough through the NHS childhood vaccination programme. However, current vaccines against whooping cough only protect against serious illness; they do not stop you getting infected or from passing it on to others.

The experimental vaccine being studied in Leicester – called BPZE1 - is a nasal spray containing a weakened version of the germ (bacteria) that cannot cause the disease, but can provide protection because the body makes antibodies against it. Early results in adults show that the vaccine has no serious side effects and caused the body to produce antibodies, as expected. It is thought the new vaccine has the potential to both protect against getting an infection and spreading it to contacts.

Dr Srini Bandi, a consultant in paediatric medicine at Leicester’s Hospitals, and study lead in Leicester, said: “We are looking for children and young people in good health who are between six and 16 years of age to take part in the study. 

“Everyone taking part will receive a type of whooping cough vaccine. Participants will be randomly put into one of three groups: group 1 will receive the BPZE1 trial vaccine; group 2 will receive the current approved whooping cough vaccine that is given on the NHS vaccination programme, called Boostrix; and group 3 will receive both vaccine types. We will then regularly see our volunteers to monitor their health.”

Dr Bandi added: “This is an important study because whooping cough is on the increase among the UK population, so if we can find a way to prevent people from getting the infection and passing it onto their friends and family, then we can help keep more people healthy.”

Approximately 600 school-age children and teenagers will take part in the study, which will run at 16 locations in the UK and other Commonwealth countries. Leicester’s Hospitals hope to recruit 30 volunteers at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

To find out more about the study, and to take part, visit https://supertrial.co.uk/ and click ‘Am I eligible?’

For those interested in health research at Leicester’s Hospitals and who want to hear about more opportunities to take part, sign up to Leicester’s Research Registry to receive regular email updates. Visit the website to join: www.leicestershospitals.nhs.uk/researchregistry




BREAKING: Callum is world’s first SUPER-hero!

Callum Hardy (pictured), 16, from Loughborough, is the world’s first person to join the SUPER trial.

He said: “It’s exciting to learn about research and be part of something so big and revolutionary.  It’s not been scary at all: the staff, nurses and doctors have really taken care of me.

“I’ve learned about vaccines at school - they can have a massive impact but I’m aware how long they take to develop. That’s what made me want to take part straight away, to protect people from illness.”

Rachael Dowling, head of research communications, researchcomm@uhl-tr.nhs.uk