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Funding success for Institute for Infection & Immunity

The Institute for Infection & Immunity at St George’s is going from strength to strength and continuing to draw in sought-after grants from external funding organisations.

The recent efforts of the Institute have paid off, as researchers have successfully applied for a variety of grants, including fellowships and multi-national awards.

Copyright: Layton Thompson | St George's, University of London Copyright: Layton Thompson | St George's, University of London

Vaccinating adult migrants in the UK

Dr Sally Hargreaves and her work on vaccinating adult migrants in the UK has received approval from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). She has secured a highly competitive Fellowship award from the organisation, which is set up to improve service delivery within the NHS.

The Fellowship funding will go towards a programme of work aimed at exploring innovative approaches to vaccine delivery for the migrant community in the UK. Currently, certain migrant groups in the UK are thought to be under-immunised for key vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles. But while children are able to join catch-up programmes at school, there are less options available for adults, who may require catch-up vaccination to align them with the UK vaccine schedule on arrival to the UK.

Dr Hargreaves’ work is looking to see whether it’s possible to adapt systems within primary care, so adults can receive catch-up vaccination from their GP. Alongside this, the project will also capture data on levels of under-immunisation within migrant populations in the UK and Europe and explore their views and concerns around vaccination and access to services. It is hoped that these data can then be used to inform health service delivery and public information campaigns to ensure vaccine uptake in under-immunised communities.

“In five years’ time, I hope we will have managed to change practice and raise awareness among migrant communities and health-care workers around the benefits of catch-up vaccination in adults,” says Dr Hargreaves. 

“Ultimately we should be taking a much more holistic approach to improving the health of migrants and their wider communities, ensuring they have access to basic and acceptable levels of healthcare on arrival to the UK through primary care”

The NIHR Fellowship also offers Dr Hargreaves the opportunity to develop as a leader in her discipline through training courses and a mentoring scheme. Find out more about the NIHR Fellowship Programme.

Preventing whooping cough in sub-Saharan Africa

Dr Kirsty Le Doare and colleagues have received funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to assess a whooping cough vaccine given to pregnant women in Uganda.

Currently there is no whooping cough vaccine given to pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. For children who catch the disease it can be very serious - especially for infants if they’re not old enough to start their routine vaccines. The vaccine given to infants in Africa is also different to the one given to children in the UK.

The study will involve 200 women, half of whom will be HIV positive. The researchers plan to test whether the vaccine is effective at increasing immunity in both the women with and without HIV and in their new-born children.

The aim of the study is to gather evidence on effectiveness of the vaccine in this population. If so, it could potentially be introduced on a wider scale. By testing in HIV positive women, the researchers also hope to find out whether it could work in this group, who may be less likely to respond to vaccinations.

“We anticipate that this vaccine can be used effectively and safely in this population,” says Professor Paul Heath, co-applicant on the study. 

“If this is found to be the case, it could then be used to prevent whooping cough in infants across sub-Saharan Africa.”

This trial will also support the research group’s other work on maternal vaccines in the UK and further upcoming work in Uganda focused on other diseases in children. Find out more about MRC grant funding.

Tackling fungal infections

Dr Tihana Bicanic’s work focuses on invasive fungal diseases. She has just been announced as the recipient of not one, but two Gilead Fellowships in invasive fungal disease to bring in two research fellows to study fungal infections in NHS patients.

The first project will be a study across three hospitals in London to find out more about Candida bloodstream infections, which can go on to cause life-threatening sepsis in patients. Dr Bicanic will be looking to find out which particular species cause the infections, and capture data around risk factors for the condition and patient outcomes.

The second project will be focused on aspergillus lung infection in patients with severe flu in intensive care units. Dr Bicanic is hoping to find out the proportion of patients that develop this secondary fungal infection. The research will take place over the upcoming flu season, and will also test the performance of a new point-of care-device to diagnose aspergillosis infection.

Drug resistance in fungal infection is fast becoming an issue. Dr Bicanic hopes this work will complement her other projects in this area, and help to create a research network focused on improving patient outcomes.

“This sort of funding is great for getting clinical fellows into research,” says Dr Bicanic. “It’s a relatively quick and straightforward application process, which has really helped us to get these projects off the ground within a short turnaround.”

Find out more about Gilead grant funding.

Published: 31 October 2019

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