03:13am Monday 21 October 2019

Defibrillators in GP surgeries would save hundreds of lives annually

The HRB-funded study evaluated the impact of having a defibrillator and trained healthcare professionals in place. The research was based on the five-year MERIT* project, which equipped 500 GPs with defibrillators and provided appropriate training to use the device when dealing with a sudden cardiac arrest due to a heart complication called ventricular fibrillation.

‘We know how to fix ventricular fibrillation but fixing it is completely and utterly time dependent,’ explains Professor Gerard Bury, Professor of General Practice at University College Dublin, who led the study.  

‘Nationally, survival rates for a sudden cardiac arrest if it happens out of hospital are one in 20. But this research shows that the availability and proper use of defibrillators by GPs, increases these survival rates 3 or 4 fold,’ says Professor Bury. ‘Fundamentally what we have demonstrated is the extraordinary success of the implementation of a scheme like MERIT. And predominantly the events that we have recorded have been in small towns and rural Ireland, where traditionally outcomes have been worse.

In Ireland, an estimated three to five thousand people die each year from sudden cardiac events that may not be fatal if treated in time. This simple measure could save hundreds of those people.

The cost of around €4,000 per GP for equipment and training must be seen as a positive investment in terms of saving lives, notes Professor Bury. ‘This sort of structured intervention and support, allied with the strength of general practice can make a huge difference at local level,’ he says. ‘Every GP in the country needs a defibrillator.’

The annual Picture of Health publication highlights, in non-technical language, recent and exciting developments arising from Irish health research funded by the HRB. Research featured includes projects that seek to improve patient care, search for better treatments and innovate in health policy and practice.

Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB says;

‘The government’s investment in research must be recognised as a vital step to encourage innovation and help reinvigorate the economy. Researchers must see this investment as a vote of confidence in their ability to deliver change and embrace the opportunity to continue to demonstrate that the work that they do has real impact.

In the past few years, the HRB has taken a strategic decision to focus our funding on research that has a positive impact on people’s health, patient care and the health service. The outcomes highlighted in this report show the difference our funded researchers are making in these areas.’

A selection of summaries from the publication are included below


*MERIT was funded by the Health Services Executive, Pre-Hospital Emergency Council and the Department of Health and Children

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey@hrb.ie

Notes for editors:

The Health Research Board is the lead agency funding health research in Ireland. We aim to improve people’s health and patient care and transform delivery of health services by providing new evidence to inform policy and practice.

Selection of summaries
Towards a universal flu vaccine

Every flu season we get a new flu vaccine, because the predominant flu virus that is going around is likely to have changed, and vaccines from previous years won’t give us enough protection. And if a pandemic flu breaks out, there’s a global scramble to develop and distribute vaccines in time. But a Health Research Board-funded team at University College Cork has been making strides in the area of a ‘universal’ flu vaccine that protects against many strains, including potential pandemic flu.
‘Instead of targeting the outer surface of the flu virus, which is the part that changes the most, we want to develop a vaccine that targets more hidden parts of the virus, which tend to change less,’ explains Dr Anne Moore, a Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at UCC.
Her team has been looking at potential ‘universal’ flu vaccines that introduce a small amount of the flu virus into the host in order to encourage the host’s immune system to build up a memory of it.

The study worked out important elements of how a host immune system responds to the two potential vaccines, has established expertise in universal flu virus development at UCC and led to an EU-funded study on flu vaccine delivery. 

A new view of road traffic collision hot spots

 Every year in Ireland, hundreds of people die or are seriously injured in road-traffic accidents. A project funded by the Health Research Board has developed a new statistical approach to analyse collision data and identify ‘hot spots’ for collisions on major roads.

The method highlighted that around half of collision events occurring at hotspots on national primary and secondary roads involved multiple vehicles, and that collisions are more frequent in darkness.

To carry out the collision study, Dr Erica Donnelly-Swift and Prof Alan Kelly from Trinity College Dublin analysed information from around 8,000 collisions on national primary and national secondary roads between 2005 and 2009, accounting for more than a quarter of all collisions nationwide.

Their statistical methods allowed them to scan not only time, but stretches of road as well. This meant they could precisely map out known or suspected hotspots and identify new hotspots on national primary and secondary roads.

‘We developed a method to look at multiple hotspots along a network,’ explains Dr Donnelly-Swift. ‘And by using a systematic approach to look at alternative secondary hotspots, we identified the location of many hotspots along a particular stretch of road. Our findings and methods should inform policies and measures aimed at reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries from road-traffic collisions on national routes. Ultimately we hope this research will save lives by providing information on hotspots and a national perspective on road-traffic collisions.’

Resistance needed for antibiotic misuse

A Health Research Board-funded study in the west of Ireland shows that many antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately, and highlights a link between the prescription of antibiotics and an increased risk of antibiotic resistance.

‘By using antibiotics we make them gradually less useful,’ explains Dr Akke Vellinga, a senior lecturer in primary care and lecturer in bacteriology at NUI Galway. ‘The antibiotics end up in the environment and the bacterial community adapts by developing resistance.’

The study at NUI Galway looked at databases on prescribing practices and antibiotic resistance risk and found a direct link between the amount of antibiotics prescribed and the chance that an individual patient would be diagnosed with a resistant E.coli infection.  

The researchers also found that while they could identify bacteria in 20 per cent of samples from patients with urinary tract infections, more than 50 per cent of the patients were prescribed antibiotics. And of those, only 37 per cent were prescribed the recommended treatment.   

In addition, the risks of being diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection shot up if a patient had more than one course of antibiotics: having two or more rounds of the medication could increase the risk of resistance by more than six-fold.


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