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April 2012: Major EU project will investigate genes that influence bacterial infections in children

Researchers will study the genetic factors that influence children’s susceptibility to bacterial infections in a 12 million euro research collaboration, led by Imperial College London. The new project, called EUCLIDS, is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) and will involve 14 partner institutions in six countries, with a budget of 12 million euros over five years.

Bacterial infections are responsible for more than a quarter of child deaths globally. Despite the availability of vaccines and antimicrobial drugs, large numbers of children continue to be affected in developed countries as well as the developing world. As well as looking for genetic differences that affect susceptibility to disease and how severe the illness is, the project aims to understand how the genes identified affect disease processes, using cell biology and functional genomics studies.

“This is a truly interdisciplinary project that will go beyond state-of-the-art genetics to tell us about the biological mechanisms underlying how genetic factors influence disease,” said Professor Mike Levin, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, who is coordinating the project.

Micropathology Ltd are proud to be involved in this collaborative effort to better understand the genetic factors driving childhood infections. “We hope that this research will lead to new diagnostic tests to predict which children are most at risk of severe disease,” said Professor Colin Fink, Medical Director.

Last year, the group published the first genome wide study to identify genetic differences that influence why some people are more vulnerable to meningococcal disease than others and identified human factor H as significantly associated with susceptibility. Dr Elli Pinnock, from Micropathology Ltd, will be using high-throughput sequencing to characterise factor H binding protein (fHbp) expressed by Neisseria meningitidis isolates from patients with invasive disease.

Further on, the researchers will apply the approaches used in the meningococcal model to other major bacterial infections that affect children, such as pneumococcus, staphylococcus and salmonella.

EUCLIDS partners

  • The University of Liverpool, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health
  • University of Oxford, Department of Paediatrics
  • Academic Medical Centre Amsterdam
  • Erasmus MC, Department of Paediatrics
  • Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Department of Paediatrics
  • Medical University of Graz, Department of Paediatrics
  • Servicio Galego de Saude, Hospital Clinico Universitario de Santiago de Compostela
  • Biomedical Sciences Institute, Genome Institute of Singapore, Infectious diseases and Human genetics
  • Oxford Gene Technology
  • Micropathology Ltd University of Warwick
  • Medical Research Council Laboratories, The Gambia
  • Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics
  • Imperial Consultants

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