National collaboration to tackle parechovirus

09 May 2018

Researchers across Australia will work together to study human parechovirus (HPeV), an emerging virus that has caused three outbreaks of serious illness in infants every 2 years since 2013.

The research is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia through a Centre of Research Excellence called the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE). APPRISE is a national network developing research to guide an evidence-based response for an effective emergency response to infectious diseases in Australia.

The project will be led by infectious disease specialists from around the country, including Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance and leader of the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) network.

PAEDS have been tracking the frequency of HPeV cases since August 2017, and recorded over 200 cases of infants hospitalised with HPeV between July and December of that year.

Dr Philip Britton, infectious diseases physician and researcher at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and the University of Sydney will also collaborate on the project as a member of the clinical team, together with interstate colleagues, including Professor Cheryl Jones at Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

“One thing we aim to understand is the genetic evolution of the virus over the three sequential epidemics in Australia, and how the genetic profiles match the clinical presentation”, said Dr Britton. 

Currently there are no specific treatments or vaccines for parechovirus and because there is no routine testing, many more infants may remain undiagnosed.

The collaboration across Australia will enable a coordinated approach to the sharing of samples and data, which is essential for an effective national research response to emerging infectious diseases.

For further information from Dr Philip Britton on the emerging epidemic, listen to this podcast from the Medical Journal of Australia.

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