Vaccines and Infectious Disease
Led by Associate Professor Helen Marshall (School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health)
Infections such as whooping cough, meningococcal disease and influenza still cause death and disability in young infants. During the last whooping cough epidemic 10 babies died from the whooping cough infection with most of these babies under 4 months of age. One in 10 children who are diagnosed with meningococcal disease will die from the infection and a further 40% will develop a long-term disability.
The Vaccines and Infectious Disease Group aims to improve protection and outcomes for children from serious infections, and monitor community acceptance of immunisations. Immunising pregnant women is becoming increasingly important and has a dual benefit; protection for the mother against serious infections and protection for her newborn. Pregnant women who develop influenza during pregnancy have double the risk of fetal death, whereas women who are immunised against influenza during pregnancy provide protection for their newborn in the first months of life.
Our research into one of the most serious and life-threatening infections, meningococcal disease, identified that children who present with a high fever and are diagnosed with both meningitis and septicemia or were premature at birth are more likely to have long-term complications including disability. With our interstate collaborators we have embarked on the largest study in the world assessing the safety and effectiveness of immunising newborn babies in the first week of life to provide better protection against whooping cough infection.