Canterbury clinician involved in multi-million study

Friday August 26, 2011

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 says.

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 involved.

This involved Canterbury Health Laboratories work in the evaluation of the molecular diagnostic assays to be used in the study countries and a pilot serological study.

“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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