Who we are
The Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group (PIDRG) was formed in 2010, it is led by Professor Paul Heath, Professor Mike Sharland and Professor Kirsty Le Doare, with a vision for the group to be an internationally recognised centre leading in Paediatric Infectious Disease research.
As part of the Infection and Immunity Institute, a centre of excellence for clinical care, teaching and research at St George’s, University of London; the PIDRG has developed over the past 10 years into a large international research group, forming collaborations with global partners, expanding its research scope and becoming a global leader in the field of paediatric infectious diseases.
The CNPI now includes a research portfolio comprising of a variety of projects and studies in children, with a focus on the epidemiology and treatment of vaccine-preventable diseases, global antibiotic resistance and prescribing and on maternal and infant infections such as Group B Streptococcus (GBS).
The CNPI research portfolio entails a variety of commercially funded and non-commercial projects, running clinical trials, observational and cohort studies in babies, children and adults. The CNPI attracts funding from major research bodies in the UK and Europe including the European Union (EU), European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), PENTA, GARDP and many commercial companies focused on research such as Pfizer, GSK, amongst others.
Vaccine Preventable Infections and the Vaccine Institute
Professor Paul Heath
Professor Paul Heath’s research concentrates on the epidemiology of vaccine preventable diseases, in clinical vaccine trials, particularly in at-risk groups, and on all aspects of perinatal and neonatal infections.
Defining the epidemiology of all neonatal infections has been an important aspect of the ongoing work with the aim of formulating research priorities, this has been done through neonatal surveillance studies, specifically on neonatal meningitis and GBS, and coordinating the national neonatal infection surveillance network (neonIN).
Professor Paul Heath is the director of the Vaccine Institute (VI), an independent, non-commercial, academic institution and is the base for human clinical trials of paediatric and adult vaccines, and vaccines against infectious diseases plaguing the most underprivileged members of the world. Previous and current paediatric clinical vaccine trials include vaccines against meningococcal group B (Men B), congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and chickenpox.
Research into new vaccines administered in pregnancy to combat neonatal infections and protect newborns has been developed with a new pipeline of maternal vaccine studies having been opened in the group and the VI. These include previous and current research studies immunising mothers against pertussis, RSV, CMV, and GBS.
Professor Mike Sharland is one of the UK and Europe’s leading experts in antimicrobial prescribing, resistance and healthcare associated infection in children. His research interests in antimicrobial prescribing includes determining the best drug, correct dose, the optimal indication, the efficacy of the drug (including pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics), the clinical outcome and safety. He also has a particular interest in post-marketing surveillance following drug licensing, and long-term surveillance of antimicrobial use as clinical disease and resistance patterns change.
As the lead clinical advisor for the neonatal and paediatric programme of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) and Vice-Chair and AMR lead of the Penta Foundation, a global Paediatric Infectious Diseases research network; he and the PIDRG team have collaborated with many global partners to address and combat the emerging threat of AMR, particularly in neonates and children.
Conducting major observational studies and surveys on antibiotic use globally in the ARPEC and GARPEC projects has supported trial planning and hypothesis generation, providing evidence base for conducting global antibiotic interventional clinical trials. This has included clinical trials to determine the optimal choice of drug, dose, duration and delivery to manage hospitalized children with severe pneumonia, PediCAP, and in single and multidose antibiotic trials to manage carbapenem-resistant infections (CRI’s) in childhood, PediPOLYB.
Professor Mike Sharland and GARDP have focused on improving an evidence base for the antibiotic management of neonatal sepsis by conducting a global observation study, NeoOBs. This has built on the neonatal sepsis trials in Europe, NeoMero and NeoVanc to establish the design and conduct of a global trial comparing novel antibiotic regiments at different durations to treat MDR neonatal sepsis globally, NeoSep1. A parallel programme, building on the GARPEC point prevalence and blood stream infection studies, aims to provide an evidence base to conduct antibiotic trials and to inform the WHO guideline for paediatric sepsis.
In the LMIC setting the evidence base is very limited and there is a need for preventative interventions such as paediatric infection, prevention and control. This has led to the development of pilot studies to define the optimal choice of antiseptic drug, dose, duration and delivery that prevents vertical and early and late nosocomial/horizontal transmission of MDR bacteria, NeoCHG and NeoVTAMR. This will inform and lead to a final goal of developing a combined intervention bundle to be tested in a global cluster randomization trial to reduce the incidence of neonatal and pediatric Hospital Acquired Infection and improve the quality of prescribing.
Professor Mike Sharland
Global Maternal and Neonatal Infections and GBS
Professor Kirsty Le Doare
Professor Le Doare joined the SGUL from Imperial College London in September 2018 as part of the Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group. She trained as a clinician-scientist in Paediatric Infectious Diseases in the UK, the Gambia and South Africa. Kirsty holds a Chair in Vaccinology and Immunology and is a Principal Scientist at MRC/UVRI@LSHTM in Uganda where she is developing a maternal vaccine platform and surveillance of pregnancy outcomes in a large urban cohort. She was awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2019.
In the UK and in Uganda her main research interests are age-related immune responses to infectious diseases in pregnant women and their babies. She is interested in improving our knowledge of how maternal antibody in blood and breast milk is passed to babies and how this protects them from colonisation and disease and how we might improve this with vaccination. Her group leads several clinical trials of investigative vaccines in Uganda.
She is jointly appointed to Public Health England as a principal scientist with the Pathogen Immunity Group, Porton Down.
Current major projects include:
periCOVID (UK, Uganda and Malawi; www.periCOVID.com) EDCTP funding, investigating the seroepidemiology of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy and vertical transmission,
PREPARE (7 countries, including the UK and Uganda; www.gbsprepare.org) EDCTP funding, investigating the seroepidemiology of Group B Strepotococcus (GBS) in pregnancy and up to 90 days of life to inform serocorrelates of infection for vaccine trials. the study involves establishing a clinical vaccine site for maternal vaccines of pertussis and GBS pregnant women in Uganda.
GASTON, (18 partners from 6 countries; www.gbsatstgeorges.co.uk) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding, a multinational, multisector collaboration of public health, industrial and academic partners to develop standardised assays for the assessment of antibodies against GBS to facilitate vaccine licensure.
iGBS, (www.gbsatstgeorges.co.uk) NIHR and MRC funding, a UK nationwide study of seroprevalence of GBS in pregnant women and their infants. We aim to biobank 320,000 cord blood samples and prospecitvely follow women delivering in the UK to understand protection passed from women to their babies.