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Milton Keynes University Hospital joins national flu trial

Milton Keynes University Hospital joins national flu trial

Researchers at Milton Keynes University Hospital are taking part in a new national trial which aims to use pandemic lessons to quickly find effective treatments for people hospitalised with severe flu. 

The £2.9 million REMAP-CAP trial will seek to recruit children and adults hospitalised with severe flu from 150 hospitals across the UK over the next two years. Milton Keynes University Hospital will be one of the sites supporting the study in collaboration with other national experts.

This is the first time a trial of this kind will be used for flu. The REMAP-CAP trial was originally set up to tackle pandemics. It is exactly two years since REMAP-CAP showed in COVID-19 how reducing inflammation with the drug tocilizumab can save lives in severely ill patients. 

Milton Keynes University Hospital has recruited more than 50 patients from its Intensive Care Unit and the study is now being offered to all hospitalised patients with severe flu. The trial will be open to adults, children, and babies over the age of one month who are hospitalised with severe flu. Children and babies will receive lower treatment doses than adults. 

Dr Richard Stewart, Principal Investigator of the trial at the hospital, said: “The COVID pandemic brought the research communities together like never before. The tireless work of our researchers at MKUH combined with our local patient population’s selfless desire to help others meant our trust played a crucial role in helping the REMAP-CAP team to identify new, effective treatments for a devastating disease more quickly than any of us thought possible.

 “We have another challenge. Influenza poses significant risk to all members of our society and the REMAP-CAP study offers the chance to meet that challenge. Now we know what collaborative research can achieve in such a short space of time, we have another fantastic opportunity for researchers and patients to join forces and together, target new influenza treatment options which will hopefully benefit generations of patients to come.”

Running for two years in the first instance, the trial aims to recruit several thousand people, and will test multiple treatments. These include the anti-viral treatments, oseltamivir (also known as Tamiflu) and baloxavir, as well as steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs that were found to be effective against COVID-19 in the original REMAP-CAP trial. More treatments may be added in the future.

The researchers will study how effective the treatments are at reducing deaths from flu and stopping patients needing intensive care. 

Unlike other trials, which usually test individual treatments for a set amount of time, the new trial – known as an adaptive platform trial – continues as new treatments are added. Any treatments which are found not to work are removed. It will also involve trialling the treatments alone, in combination, and for different durations to find the best way to treat flu. 

Professor Andy Ustianowski, NIHR Joint National Infection Specialty Lead, said: "This landmark study aims at urgently providing new treatments for thousands of people at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from flu. NIHR played a critical role funding, enabling and delivering trials in the fight against COVID and its heartening that we are building on the legacy of high quality research, by funding new adaptive research to tackle other deadly illnesses.

"The benefit of running a platform study like REMAP-CAP is that it is a more efficient way of delivering answers and evidence around new treatments. This could prove invaluable to help ease pressure on the NHS over winter."