The study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, aims to determine why pregnant women are so vulnerable to viral infections like influenza.
“Pregnant women tend to experience more severe bouts of influenza and swine flu than non-pregnant women,” Professor Peter Wark*, co-investigator on the study, said.
“The rate of hospitalisation among pregnant women infected with influenza is four times that of the general population, and if those women develop pneumonia up to 20 per cent require intensive care treatment.”
The research team is seeking women who are intending to become pregnant, and are able to visit John Hunter Hospital to provide blood samples before, during and after their pregnancy.
“We suspect part of the changes in the immune system that occur with pregnancy also make it difficult for a pregnant woman to fight viral inflections,” Professor Wark said.
Co-investigator Professor Roger Smith** said he hoped the team’s findings would help guide emergency therapy of women infected with influenza.
“It is very important we understand exactly why pregnant women are more vulnerable to influenza infections if we are going to develop better methods of preventing viral diseases during pregnancy,” Professor Smith said.
“In the 2009 (H1N1) influenza pandemic, 50 per cent of the pregnant women infected worldwide were hospitalised. Of those, 23 per cent were admitted to an Intensive Care Unit and eight per cent died.”
“Next time there is a pandemic we want to be able to better protect pregnant women.”
Women who are interested in participating in the study can contact: Dr Giavanna Angeli on (02) 4985 5735 / (02) 4042 0350, or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Professor Wark is a Staff Specialist at John Hunter Hospital, Conjoint Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, and conducts research in collaboration with the HMRI VIVA Program.
** Professor Smith is Co-Director of the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Sciences, and is Leader of the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Program.
MEDIA CONTACT: Robbie Macaulay, HMRI Communications Officer, 4985 5359 | 0421 964 575