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Professor Paul T. Heath

Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases
Clinical academic

Paul Heath is Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George's. He co-leads the Paediatric Infectious Disease Research Group and is Director of the Vaccine Institute.

Professor Heath trained in paediatrics and infectious diseases at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

He sits on national UK committees concerned with meningitis (NICE, MRF), Group B streptococcus (GBS) prevention, neonatal infections (NICE), immunisation policies in children (JCVI subgroups on pneumococcal and on VZV vaccines) and COVID-19 vaccine trial delivery. He is Chair of the Research Committee of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Section Editor of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal (maternal & neonatal), NIHR Speciality Lead for Children’s research for South London CRN and a member of the WHO GBS Surveillance Technical Working Group.

 

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. 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 2014/5, 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 of neonIN as well as through separate specific national surveillance studies on neonatal meningitis (2012), GBS (2001, 2014), Listeria (2019) and HSV (2022). Prevention of GBS infection has become a major priority but current antibiotic-based strategies are poorly applied and a vaccine approach will be critical. Knowledge of serocorrelates of protection will be critical to vaccine licensure and he is leading a national MRC-funded serocorrelates study (iGBS). Pregnancy is increasingly the platform for new vaccines such as GBS and he has lead a number of maternal vaccine studies, including studies of pertussis (optimal timing), RSV, COVID-19 and GBS vaccines. This work includes pregnancy studies performed in Uganda, through collaboration with Prof Kirsty Le Doare. 

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 globally (neosep). 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 has a longstanding interest in clinical trials of new or modified vaccines, in healthy infants, children and adolescents as well as in at-risk groups, for example studies on the immunogenicity of pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine in children with cancer and HIV and optimal schedules for vaccines in preterm infants. The majority of these studies are conducted in collaboration with other major paediatric vaccine centres in the UK through the UK Paediatric Vaccine Group (UKPVG), for which Prof Heath is the national coordinator. 

see CNPI, Group B strep and SGVI websites for teams and collaborations

 

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