Children enlisted to help hospital develop treatment for bronchitis

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The world’s biggest study into the causes of bacterial bronchitis in children has got under way in Yorkshire.

Altogether 200 youngsters will be recruited over the next year to take part in a pilot study led by top doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital to try to find a treatment for persistent bacterial bronchitis.

Several hundred new cases of the condition are seen each year at the hospital.

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and exacerbated cold symptoms.

Specialists heading the study hope to find out which children are at higher risk, with the aim in future of finding a treatment or a vaccine.

In the venture, 100 children with symptoms of a chronic lung disorder will have their airways examined under general anaesthetic.

A further 100 children having a general anaesthetic for different reasons, such as surgery for another complaint, will have the procedure while they are already asleep.

The Sheffield team of researchers say the study is the biggest of its type in the world.

Professor Mark Everard, a respiratory consultant at the hospital, who has an international reputation for research in the field, said: “There has never been a study of this size before looking at the causes of bacterial bronchitis and we are very keen to see what the results will bring.

“Parents can be at the end of their tether when they come to see us because their child is thought to have had asthma or another infection with similar symptoms when actually they have this chronic condition.”

The importance of recognising the condition and treating it has been recognised by changes to all major treatment guidelines around the world, largely based on the work of experts at the children’s hospital in Sheffield and a centre in Brisbane, Australia.

“Treatment can be challenging but by treating these children effectively we aim to cure them of their illness and prevent them having chest problems throughout their life,” said Prof Everard.

“This study will show us which bugs are living in the lungs of the children with the infection and whether there is a pattern of immunity that puts some children at risk.

“We’ll then be able to compare those to the children who do not have a chronic lung problem.

“We want to get the results back from this study to help us understand how certain bacteria can cause a chronic cough. We hope the next step will then be to look at finding a treatment or a vaccine.”

Most of the children included in the study will attend Sheffield Children’s Hospital but others will also be recruited from Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Royal Belfast Hospital.