A Canterbury Health Laboratories’ microbiologist is leading the laboratory
component of the biggest study in medical history on childhood pneumonia.
The Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) study is a
collaboration between five African and two Asian research sites, with laboratory
support from the University of Otago, Christchurch and Canterbury Health
Laboratories lead by Professor David Murdoch.
Professor Murdoch says pneumonia kills more young children than any other
disease but it’s been more than 20 years since any major effort to study the
causes of it was conducted, he says.
The $US43 million study, funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, is the first of its kind.
Two other New
Zealanders are also involved in the study. They are Dr Steve Howie based in the
Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia and Dr Susan Morpeth from the
Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya.
“It is quite a
privilege for New Zealand to be involved in this study,” Professor Murdoch
Coordinated by the International Vaccine Access Centre at Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health, the study will look at causes of childhood
pneumonia in some of the world’s hardest hit populations.
Professor Murdoch says
he is overseeing the laboratory activities of the project based in Bangladesh,
The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Thailand and Zambia.
Preliminary work on
the study began more than 18 months ago when Professor Murdoch was asked to be
Canterbury Health Laboratories work in the evaluation of the molecular
diagnostic assays to be used in the study countries and a pilot serological
“I have a long
interest in respiratory infections and Canterbury Health Laboratories is
renowned worldwide for its expertise in pneumonia, which lead to my
involvement,” Professor Murdoch says.
The aim of the study
is to establish better strategies for pneumonia treatment and prevention.
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