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Pregnant women could help prevent future outbreaks of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that’s hospitalised scores of infants and young children by participating in one of Middlemore Clinical Trials, which is looking to develop one of the world’s first vaccines for RSV.

Kidz First Children’s Hospital, like many children’s wards throughout New Zealand, is currently under intense pressure caring for babies with the potentially fatal illness RSV.

“Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is here every year,” says Dr John Baker, Clinical Director at Middlemore Clinical Trials. “It’s extremely infectious, sixteen times more infectious than Influenza. This year New Zealand has been hit particularly hard with RSV, and it’s really nasty.”

Dr Baker says that RSV mainly affects people at the extremes of life: babies and the elderly.

“It’s particularly severe in new born babies where it causes bronchiolitis, sometimes known as croup.

“This can lead to extreme breathing difficulties, ICU admission, and breathing conditions later in life. It’s also a big problem in the elderly and is one of the main sources of pneumonia in the community.”

In order to help the fight against RSV, Middlemore Clinical Trials is taking part in two international clinical trials to test new vaccines that will give immunity to the mother in the third trimester of pregnancy.

“The vaccines we’re trialling should give the mother immunity which would then transferred to the baby through the placenta.

“We’re hopeful that this vaccine – if given to mothers – would prevent babies from getting RSV in the first three to six months of life.

There is no guarantee of getting the experimental vaccine by taking part is a clinical trial with half of the participants receiving a placebo (dummy medicine).

However, participation brings the day closer when an effective vaccine will be widely available in our community. ‘

“We’re confident the RSV clinical trial is safe for mothers to take part. In fact, taking part means the mothers get a higher level of medical care than they normally would at that time of their pregnancy, because they’re very closely monitored by our medical team.”

“We’re doing this trial because RSV affects the South Auckland community very badly and I want to help find a vaccine so that we don’t keep seeing sick babies here in hospital.”

Participants would need to birth by year’s end to be admitted to the study.

“We haven’t had many women coming forward yet, potentially because RSV wasn’t a problem in our community this year until very recently, but the devil has woken up, and now that the devil is out there and people are seeing how bad the virus is things will hopefully pick up.”

If you’re pregnant and you’d like to participate in this trial please contact Liz Walker on 0800 27 27 84 or leave your details online at www.mmct.nz and we will contact you.

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