Professor Heath's particular research interests are in the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases, in clinical vaccine trials, particularly in at-risk groups, and in perinatal infections. He coordinates a national neonatal infection network called neonIN which collects data on pathogens causing neonatal infections and aims to focus appropriate treatments and prevention strategies.
Professor Heath’s research concentrates on all aspects of perinatal and neonatal infection. Neonates, particularly when premature, are at high-risk of infections, indeed their risk is higher than at any other age in life. Their immune system is immature rendering them immunocompromised hosts. Infections can be transmitted by the mother in utero, during delivery and breastfeeding (vertical transmission), or from the environment after delivery (horizontal transmission). The most frequent cause of serious bacterial infection in the first three months of life is Group B streptococcus (GBS) and this has been a major focus of Prof Heath`s work, having initially described the burden of disease in the UK in 2000/1 and more recently globally.
Defining the epidemiology of all neonatal infections has been an important aspect of his ongoing work with the aim of formulating research priorities and this has been facilitated through the establishment neonIN as well as through separate specific national surveillance studies on neonatal meningitis (completed in 2012) and on GBS (to begin in early 2014). Prevention of GBS infection has become a major priority but current antibiotic-based strategies are poorly applied and it seems most likely that a vaccine approach will be critical. Pregnancy is increasingly the platform for new vaccines such as GBS and a pipeline of maternal vaccine studies are now envisaged within the group, beginning with a pertussis vaccine trial in 2014 and GBS vaccine trials in 2015.
Management of established neonatal infections is potentially difficult because of growing antimicrobial resistance, again of vital importance to monitor through longitudinal surveillance systems (neonIN) as well as through collaboration with other national databases. Knowledge of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of new, or even old antimicrobials, for the treatment of these infections in neonates is poor and this has been an important area for the research group, including coordinating trials such as on the use of meropenem in neonatal meningitis (neomero2 ) and the monitoring of gentamicin and vancomycin in neonatal infections (neoGent and neoVanc). The group additionally has a longstanding interest in clinical trials of new or modified vaccines, especially in at-risk groups, for example studies on the immunogenicity of pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine in children with cancer, as well as studies in healthy children, for example as part of a large multi-centre trial to assess new influenza vaccines.
Novartis - Investigation of the feasibility of PCR for diagnosis of neonatal sepsis with Group B Streptococcus (GBS) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) - principal investigator July 2008 - August 2011. £57,292
Novartis - V72P12 - principal investigator November 2008 - May 2011. £27,7160.
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - H1N1 - principal investigator November 2009 - March 2010. £50,297.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) - Study in healthy children of GSK Biologicals - principal investigator - May 2009 - October 2010. £ 7,026.
Pfizer - PCV13 Sickle Cell Study - principal investigator - October 2009 - June 2012. £ 18,199.
Gilead Sciences - neoFUNGAL- principal investigator - June 2010 June 2011. £ 16,735
NIHR - H1N1 follow on - principal investigator - November 2010 - November 2011. £ 67,348.
Novartis - V72_29 N. meningitidis in Young Adults - principal investigator - September 2010 - February 2012. £ 367,080
Novartis - V72P12E1 - principal investigator - January 2010 - May 2012. £ 53,432.
Pfizer - Meningococcal carriage in young adults - principal investigator - February 2011 - May 2012. £ 308,328.
Pfizer - Meningitis Pilot - principal investigator - June 2011 - May 2012. £ 10,700.
Medical Research Foundation - Neomen - clinical investigator December 2010 - June 2013. £ 123,192.
NIHR - 'Malta' - Can we reduce the number of vaccinations given to children? principal investigator February 2011- February 2013. £ 11,500.
GSK - GSK 004 Flu Study - principal investigator - October 2011 - July 2013. £ 99,322
GSK - GSK 009 Flu Study - principal investigator - October 2012 - October 2013. £ 20,180.
Sanofi Pasteur - PRI01C - principal investigator - April 2012 - September 2013. £121,834.
European Commission - Neomero - clinical investigator - January 2010 - December 2014. £ 499,869.
Pfizer - PUNS - clinical investigator - April 2012 - April 2014. £ 312,599.
Action Medical Research - Neogent - clinical investigator - August 2012 - July 2014. £ 86,084.NIHR PEPtalk2 CI 01/12/2012 30/11/2014 24 £ 177,901
Novartis - V72P12E2 - principal investigator - March 2013 September 2013. £ 27,770.
Medical Research Foundation - GBS - clinical investigator - July 2013 - September 2014. £ 150,385.
Medical Research Foundation - CHIMES - principal investigator - March 2013 - April 2016. £ 69,278.
Pfizer - MEMENTO - principal investigator - August 2013
January 2015. £ 131,321.
European Commission - NeoVanc - clinical investigator - January 2014 - December 2018. £ 554,608