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19th Dec 2018
A national research project, led by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the University of Liverpool, has been awarded more than £1.6m to test a new treatment for babies with bronchiolitis.
The pioneering research, which uses a natural substance produced by the lungs called surfactant to make it easier for babies with bronchiolitis to breathe, has been awarded the monies by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme (EME), a MRC and NIHR partnership.
Bronchiolitis is a winter viral disease that causes breathing problems and feeding difficulties in babies. In severe cases, breathing fails and these babies need intensive care where their breathing is supported by a mechanical ventilator.
Each year one thousand infants with bronchiolitis are admitted to paediatric intensive care units in England. There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for bronchiolitis.
The Bronchiolitis Endotracheal Surfactant Study (BESS) will test if treating babies with surfactant will reduce the time they depend on a mechanical ventilator.
Surfactant is naturally produced in the lungs to help ease the work of breathing. Infants suffering from bronchiolitis have less surfactant, which makes breathing much harder.
Professor Calum Semple
BESS is an investigator-led collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Southampton and Leeds. The study is led by Calum Semple, Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool and Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, and is expected to run in 14 hospitals in England, Ireland and Scotland over three winters.
Professor Semple said: “There is a pressing need to develop treatments for this nasty disease, which affects so many babies each year.
“Bronchiolitis is the commonest single cause of hospital admission for babies in the UK and now a leading cause of death in babies worldwide.
“It is vital to increase our understanding of how surfactant can help babies with breathing problems to enable us to develop effective treatment strategies for the future.
“We are extremely grateful to the EME Programme for their support. This major grant could enable our team to make a significant contribution to the future health of our youngest and most vulnerable children.”
BESS is funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme, a Medical Research Council and NIHR partnership contributions from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales, and the Health and Social Care Research & Development (HSC R&D) Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.
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