Today sees the launch of a new new research unit that will work to prevent and pre-empt future disease pandemics and tackle dangerous respiratory infections such as TB.
The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Respiratory Infection is a partnership between Imperial College London and Public Health England (PHE), with TB Alert as the lead third sector collaborator. The unit will also involve clinicians and scientists from NHS hospital and primary care trusts across the country and the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford.
In the event of a new or resurgent infectious respiratory threat, the Unit would support PHE in its response and development of new tools to combat the spread of infection and protect the public.
World-leading researchers will work to develop better ways of identifying and monitoring potential pandemics of influenza and other respiratory infections, such as Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). They are working on new methods to quickly recognise people with severe disease, figure out which groups are most vulnerable to infection and help public health officials make the best decisions in the event of an emerging outbreak.
The Unit will also work on reversing the increase of rates of TB in the UK, which have been rising for 20 years. PHE has pledged to reduce TB infections in London, now Western Europe’s TB capital, by 50 per cent over five years. Researchers will work closely with PHE on ways to achieve this, including improving methods of screening new entrants to the UK for latent TB, so that they can be given treatment to prevent development of the contagious active form of the disease.
Chief Executive of TB Alert, Mike Mandelbaum, says: “It’s great to have been involved in the development of this exciting new research centre. The unit brings together some of the best minds in respiratory research today, and we believe it will make huge strides in both preparing for any pandemic that might come our way and finding a way forward in reducing TB rates in the UK.”