Dedicated to identifying new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat infections in the most vulnerable of patients, the Neonatal Team aims to provide preterm babies with the very best start to life. In Western Australia alone, nearly 3000 babies are born early each year, and reducing infections plays a major role in decreasing the long-term complications experienced in preterm births.
Prof Strunk and Dr Currie have been working together in the neonatal health field for over 12 years and are looking forward to fostering new partnerships and collaborations as the eighth research team within the Wesfarmers Centre.
“Our group has previously been involved with the Centre through various studies and seed-funding opportunities to learn more about the bacteria that colonises the skin of newborn infants and children,” said Prof Strunk.
“Our collaborative projects have included investigating how the newborn infants’ immune system matures within in the first weeks of life and protects them from serious infections, as well as conducting a pilot study to observe the effects of coconut oil on bacteria that causes newborn sepsis.
“Joining the Centre will now allow us to extend beyond our neonatal discipline and build capacity to conduct further research around infection and inflammation that will directly benefit the health of preterm babies.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with the interdisciplinary teams within the Wesfarmers Centre, mutually benefitting from the shared knowledge and expertise,” said Prof Strunk.
Upcoming key projects for the Neonatal Infection and Immunity Team include:
The PROTECT Trial, a large international, multi-centre study that investigates if using the medication Pentoxifylline in extremely preterm infants with sepsis or necrotizing enterocolitis can improve survival without disability.
Leading the COSI 2 Trial (Topical Coconut Oil to reduce late-onset Sepsis in extremely preterm Infants), a large, cluster-randomised trial conducted in neonatal intensive care units in Australia and New Zealand to establish if topical coconut oil reduces late-onset sepsis in extremely preterm infants.
Completing the sPLAT-2 study, evaluating a new biomarker - sPLA-IIA - for more accurate diagnosis of late-onset sepsis in preterm babies. If successful, this marker will allow clinicians to quickly identify which infants do not actually have sepsis and reduce the use of unnecessary, and potentially harmful, antibiotics more quickly.
Working with collaborators in Denmark and Wales as part of the Neonatal Sepsis Biomarker (NSB) study, performing transcriptomics and proteomics analysis of neonatal sepsis samples.
Establishing the NHMRC funded ‘One’ Project, working with specialists in molecular microbiology and metabolomics and colleagues at Fiona Stanley and King Edward Memorial Hospitals to create a uniform diagnostic test for rapid and accurate diagnosis of sepsis in infants, children, and adults.
“The work of the Neonate team ties in very nicely with the research currently underway throughout the Centre and our previous collaborative studies have proved very successful,” said A/Prof Blyth.
“We are very pleased that Prof Strunk and Dr Currie have accepted our invitation to join the Centre and they will now play an important role in our vision of ensuring a healthier start to life for all children.”