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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Swine flu research projects fast-tracked

  • Published: Monday, 24 August 2009

Fourteen swine flu research projects have been fast-tracked by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The priority studies will provide important clinical and scientific evidence that will help the government direct the response to swine flu.

Research into swine flu

Results of the studies are expected by the end of the year, and will help the experts who advise the government on how to protect British people.

One study, led by Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam of the University of Nottingham and the Health Protection Agency, will estimate how long someone is contagious for and advise on a ‘safe distance’ from the patient.

The research will be carried out in children as well as adults as children appear to hold on to the virus for longer. The results of this research will be available to the NHS in the autumn.

Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam said: "Very little is currently known about the H1N1 (swine flu) virus which makes it very hard to predict the numbers of people likely to catch it and how best to treat them. For example, we do not know how long the virus is excreted by infected humans and how much virus is spread to surfaces and carried in the air."

Other research projects include:

  • assessing school closure effectiveness in preventing spread – this will help decide if and when school closures would be appropriate
  • measuring how effective facemasks are for healthcare workers
  • managing swine flu in pregnant women so that treatment and care gives maximum benefit to mother and baby

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Director General of Research and Development at the Department of Health,  said: "We are rapidly learning about the emerging swine flu risk profile - solid clinical and scientific evidence must be at the heart of this. 

"The research projects announced today will ensure the UK remains well armed to respond to swine flu, help prevent infection, and save lives."

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