Public Release: 

Nottingham scientists commissioned for urgent swine flu research

University of Nottingham

Scientists at The University of Nottingham and Health Protection Agency East Midlands are carrying out urgent research into the swine flu virus after being commissioned as part of the government's response to the pandemic.

Researchers want to find out how long someone is contagious for and advise on a 'safe distance' from the patient.

The study is being led by Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van Tam of the University of Nottingham's School of Community Health Sciences and the Health Protection Agency East Midlands.

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Researchers will take daily nose swabs from people suffering from H1N1 influenza over a period of at least a week to see how much virus is in the nose and how quickly it disappears.

They will also take samples from hard surfaces and from the air around the patient using a special filter device. Using this data they aim to work out how much virus is being excreted and how long someone is contagious for. They also want to discover whether the virus is more prominent on surfaces or in the air as well as advising on what is a 'safe' distance from the patient.

The research will be carried out in children as well as adults because children seem to hold onto the virus for longer. The study plans to test swabs from 25 to 30 children in hospital and the same number in the community. Around 50 adults in hospital and at home will also be tested. Patients in hospital will be identified through the Hospital Trusts in Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield. The researchers plan to recruit patients in the community via adverts in the local press.

The study is part of a programme of research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research on behalf of the Department of Health. The results of the University's research will be available to the NHS in the autumn.

Professor Van Tam said: "Very little is currently known about the H1N1 virus making predicting the numbers of people likely to catch it and how best to treat them very hard. For example we do not know how long the virus is excreted by infected humans and how much virus is spread to surfaces and carried in the air."

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Director General of Research and Development at the Department of Health said: "We are rapidly learning about the emerging swine flu risk profile - solid clinical and scientific evidence must be at the heart of this. The research projects announced today will ensure the UK remains well armed to respond to swine flu, help prevent infection and save lives."

This is one of a series of research projects relating to H1N1 influenza being managed by the NIHR Evaluation Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) on behalf of the National Institute for Healthcare Research. To view the full project details visit www.netscc.ac.uk/pandemicflu

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation -- School of Pharmacy), and was named 'Entrepreneurial University of the Year' at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government.

The Agency combines public health and scientific knowledge, research and emergency planning within one organisation -- and works at international, national, regional and local levels. It also supports and advises other organisations that play a part in protecting health.

The Agency's advice, information and services are underpinned by evidence-based research. It also uses its research to develop new vaccines and treatments that directly help patients.

The Agency exists to help protect the health of everyone in the UK; our ambition is to lead the way by identifying, preparing for and responding to health threats.

General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including swine flu. This includes:

  • Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of virus from your hands to face or to other people.
  • Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.
  • Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
  • Making sure your children follow this advice.

Further information on swine flu is available on the Health Protection Agency's website at www.hpa.org.uk/swineflu.

The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients. www.nihr.ac.uk

NETSCC manages five research programmes on behalf of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): The Efficacy Mechanism and evaluation (EME) programmes, the Health Services Research (HSR) programme, the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme, the Public Health Research (PHR) programme, and the Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) programme.

More information is available from Media Relations Manager Lindsay Brooke in the University's Communications Office on +44 (0) 115 9515751, Lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk or Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk

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