Cry for mums and babies to take part in new clinical trials for bronchiolitis treatments

Mum Louise Owen with her 7-month-old daughter, Eliza Owen. Eliza had bronchiolitis - a virus which causes breathing ...
MONIQUE FORD / FAIRFAX NZ

Mum Louise Owen with her 7-month-old daughter, Eliza Owen. Eliza had bronchiolitis - a virus which causes breathing problems in babies.

When baby Eliza was hooked up to a ventilator and didn't recognise her own mum, all her family could do was watch and wait.

Seven month old Eliza spent eight days in Wellington Hospital recently after coming down with the highly contagious RSV, or bronchiolitis.

Although one in three babies get the virus, there are no approved treatments for use in New Zealand, which means a painful waiting game for parents as the virus is left to run its course.

Baby Eliza Owen spent 8 days in Wellington Hospital, including 5 days in ICU, with bronchiolitis during April.
SUPPLIED

Baby Eliza Owen spent 8 days in Wellington Hospital, including 5 days in ICU, with bronchiolitis during April.

Clinical trials happening in Wellington and Christchurch are hoping to bridge the gap – but researchers are appealing to families to take part.

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Bronchiolitis or RSV - not to be confused with bronchitis - is a respiratory viral infection caused by inflammation in tiny airways known as the bronchioles.

Eliza looking much better as the virus leaves her little body.
SUPPLIED

Eliza looking much better as the virus leaves her little body.

It results in breathing problems, and revs up in the cold winter months.

Eliza had woken one morning with a cough and was miserable. By the afternoon she was on breathing support. By the evening she was in ICU, where she would spend the next five days.

"It's horrible knowing all you've got to do is just wait," mum Louise Owen said.

Dr Thorsten Stanley, paediatrics senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Wellington said the trials need buy-in from ...
MONIQUE FORD / FAIRFAX NZ

Dr Thorsten Stanley, paediatrics senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Wellington said the trials need buy-in from families. Currently no treatments exist for bronchiolitis.

Eliza, and her twin sister Pippa, were born two months premature by caesarean – as Eliza was not growing at the same rate as her sister.

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Eliza, who contracted RSV at 6 months, was one of small number of affected babies who get extremely serious cases of bronchiolitis.  

"I had six or seven days of this baby that didn't seem to recognise me. I would go in and she wouldn't even smile," Owen said.

Three internationally-developed bronchiolitis treatments are being trialled at Wellington Hospital in the hope of ...
CAMERON BURNELL / FAIRFAX NZ

Three internationally-developed bronchiolitis treatments are being trialled at Wellington Hospital in the hope of reducing the virus in babies.

Most infants get better without treatment, but some don't. Last year, six babies in New Zealand died of bronchiolitis.

WHAT ARE THE TRIALS?

Three internationally-developed bronchiolitis treatments - including two preventative vaccinations, are being trialled at Wellington Hospital in the hope of reducing the virus in babies. 

"These are all different forms of treatment that have their own place, but they're all desperately requiring families to be interested in helping," Dr Thorsten Stanley, paediatrics senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Wellington said.

The first trial involves two types of vaccinations for pregnant women, given in their third trimester - which aims to protect the foetus.

The second trial is a vaccination designed for premature babies, given days before they go home from hospital. 

"We are hardly getting any mothers interested in that at the moment," Stanley said.

These vaccination trials are also going on at Christchurch Hospital and involve multiple countries and thousands of women worldwide.

For vaccinations to be approved by MedSafe and other regulatory bodies, they must be trialled in the population they are intended for.

The third trial - now in it's third year, is a medicine designed to kill the virus when the baby comes in sick "to stop them getting really sick".

This is currently only being offered in Wellington.

The risk of bronchiolitis increases in winter, and premature babies are more at-risk. Overcrowding is also a risk factor.

Wellington Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit treats about 100 babies with bronchiolitis each year, Stanley said.

"If you asked any paediatrician if they were able to get rid of one infection – most would probably say it would be RSV bronchiolitis because it is just so common, and so difficult to treat and prevent," Canterbury DHB paediatrician Dr Tony Walls said.

To find out more about a Wellington trial contact: RES-Research@ccdhb.org.nz

To find out more about a Christchurch trial phone: 022 477 6004

 

 - Sunday Star Times

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