Prevention of acute respiratory infections among Indigenous children

To lead a collaborative and multidisciplinary research program dedicated to achieving sustainable improvements in the respiratory health of Indigenous children. The program will accomplish its goals through engagement with community, government, policy makers, researchers and all levels of health care in design, implementation and evaluation. The research will focus on practical and translatable interventions for the prevention of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and incorporate innovative science to address knowledge gaps in ARI aetiology and pathogenesis.

Indigenous infants continue to be hospitalised with ARIs more often than non-Indigenous infants. The gap is widest in the Northern Territory (NT)1 where ARIs remain a leading cause of hospitalisation and preventable death.2 Preventing early infections is the key. Pragmatic intervention strategies supported by the community are essential. Providing an evidence base for the implementation and effectiveness of these strategies is critical.

To evaluate perinatal vitamin D (vitD) supplementation, antenatal vaccination and neonatal probiotic therapy as key preventative strategies against early childhood ARI.

Research pathway:
My proposed career development fellowship (CDF) will build on my ongoing research pathway to address childhood ARI. My skills in laboratory science, biology, nutrition, clinical trials, public health, epidemiology and statistics provide the expertise required to lead multidisciplinary intervention research in this priority area. With 35 publications (~600 citations), $9.0m in competitive research funding, including four tier one grants directly related to this proposal, this ‘Hot North’ CDF will substantially increase my chances of success at the NHMRC and in my future career.

Key 2020 objectives:
• Establish stable recruitment for ongoing RCTs
• Validate and publish the method for vitD testing on dried blood spots
• Work up whole blood immune challenge assays on pediatric blood
• A pilot study of neonatal probiotic use (colonization and safety)
• Attract funding for RCT of neonatal probiotics to prevent early ARIs
• Begin analysis of national antenatal vaccine program safety/impact

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