Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grants for Professor Kirsten Perrett and Dr Clare Whitehead

Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Studies into the effect of vitamin D on children’s lung health and the best treatments for maternal infections following premature birth have received Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grants.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)’s Professor Kirsten Perrett and Dr Clare Whitehead have been awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants totalling $6 million.

Professor Perrett, MCRI’s Population Allergy Group Leader, will conduct a six-year follow-up of the VITALITY trial, which enrolled more than 2,700 infants to determine whether vitamin D supplementation could lead to a reduction in food allergy at age one.

Population Allergy Group Leader Professor Kirsten Perrett

Image: Professor Kirsten Perrett

Data from this cohort is currently being collected, with the NHMRC funding to ensure Professor Perrett can investigate the longer-terms effects of vitamin D drops on asthma and lung function, when delivered in the first year of a child’s life.

“Vitamin D can positively impact the immune system and plays a crucial role in maintaining lung health, with insufficiency linked to reduced lung function, recurrent wheezing, allergic disease and increased severity of asthma in childhood,” Professor Perrett said.

“This next phase of the VITALITY trial will allow us to collect further evidence on this simple and well tolerated treatment, showing us the effects on a broader range of health outcomes.”

Professor Perrett, who is also Director of the National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE) and Centre for Food Allergy Research (CFAR) hoped the follow-up study would strengthen international data on the role of vitamin D supplementation in childhood asthma prevention and provide key answers on improving lung function in children with food allergies.

will use an innovative trial method to study different potential treatments for the preterm, pre-labour rupture of membranes (PPROM) where waters break too early in pregnancy.

The PROMOAT trial will test different interventions to prevent infection in both mothers and their babies.

“While a traditional, randomised controlled trial could help us test one or two different treatments, our adaptive trial method allows us to compare four antibiotic treatments currently used in pregnant women with PPROM in order to identify which is safest and most effective,” Dr Whitehead said.

“PPROM causes complications in about 40 per cent of preterm pregnancies and is a leading cause of maternal and neonatal sepsis and death. It’s critical that we establish the best possible treatments and improve outcomes for those with this pregnancy complication.”

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