Tackling drug-resistant infections in seriously ill children
This research was completed on 31 October 2016
Published on 23 November 2015
Some of the most vulnerable children in our hospitals may one day benefit from research by Professor Judy Breuer of University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Professor Breuer aims to help children with weakened immune systems. This includes children who are undergoing transplants, are having treatment for cancer or have HIV. Viral infections that are normally harmless can be life threatening for these children, particularly if the virus becomes resistant to drug treatment. Professor Breuer is developing a way to spot problematic drug resistance sooner, so doctors can adjust children’s treatment earlier and boost children’s chances of making a good recovery.
Action Medical Research and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity are jointly funding this research.
How are children’s lives affected now?
“Around three in every 10 children we see at Great Ormond Street Hospital have weakened immune systems, which puts them at risk of developing life-threatening viral infections,” says Professor Breuer.1
“In this project, we’re concentrating on cytomegalovirus (CMV), and adenovirus (AdV) infections,” adds Professor Breuer. “These infections can make children with weakened immune systems seriously ill. Sadly, some children lose their lives and those who survive can develop lifelong disabilities, such as vision loss.”
Resistance of viruses to drug treatments presents a major challenge when caring for children with these infections.
“Inadequacies of existing tests mean doctors can’t normally tell for sure, particularly early on, whether a child’s infection is becoming resistant to the drug they’re taking and whether they should switch to another drug,” says Professor Breuer. “This means drugs may be continued when they’re no longer useful, or withdrawn when they’re working, but doing so only slowly.”
How could this research help?
Professor Breuer’s team is developing new blood tests that will reveal early on whether a child’s CMV or AdV infection is starting to develop some resistance to drug treatment. The team is also trying to find ways to use the results of the blood tests to predict how a child’s illness might progress and how they’re likely to respond to different drugs.
Professor Breuer explains: “Earlier detection of drug resistance in children with CMV or AdV infections could help doctors to decide which drug to give a child and to act quickly if they need to switch treatments. Better treatment decisions like this could boost children’s chances of making a good recovery.”
“The tests we’re developing could also provide an early warning if drug resistant infections are being spread within a hospital,” continues Professor Breuer. “This would allow hospitals to take urgent action when necessary, by closing wards and deep cleaning them.”
1. Data supplied by Professor Judith Breuer, Department of Infection, Immunity, Inflammation and Physiological Medicine, Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital, University of London
|Project Leader||Professor Judith Breuer MBBS MD FRCPath|
|Location||Department of Infection, Immunity, Inflammation and Physiological Medicine, Institute of Child Health University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital|
|Grant awarded||20 July 2015|
|Start date||1 November 2015|
|End date||31 October 2016|
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