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Parents in Kent, Surrey and Sussex urged to support new research tackling RSV infections in infants

Parents across Kent, Surrey and Sussex are being urged to support a new respiratory virus study looking into the UK’s leading cause of infant hospitalisation.

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is one of the leading causes of hospitalisation in all infants worldwide, and affects 90% of children before the age of two.

RSV often causes only mild illnesses, like a cold. However, for some babies, it leads to more severe lung problems such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

In recent months, there has been a resurgence of RSV following the easing of COVID-19 public health measures.

The groundbreaking HARMONIE study is looking at how strongly babies can be protected from serious illness due to RSV infection, by giving them a single dose of nirsevimab, a monoclonal antibody immunisation.

The HARMONIE study will take place at six hospitals across Kent, Surrey and Sussex:

  • Medway NHS Foundation Trust, Gillingham
  • William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent
  • Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, Margate
  • St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey
  • East Surrey Hospital, Redhill
  • Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

Samantha Short from Kent, whose nine-month-old baby Jack is taking part in the study at Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “It's great to be involved in research that might help more babies in the future. Being a Sister in a neonatal unit, I know how ill some babies can get with RSV. Being on the HARMONIE Study has reassured me that Jack will be protected from RSV this winter as he received the injection and I did not hesitate in enrolling in this study."

Dr Aung Soe, Neonatal Speciality Lead for NIHR Clinical Research Network, Kent, Surrey and Sussex and Consultant Neonatologist at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The HARMONIE study is a vital study looking into whether a new drug, nirsevimab, will significantly reduce the number of babies with RSV Bronchiolitis needing to be admitted to hospital.

“We hope that parents will engage with this trial as RSV is a common seasonal virus that infects nearly all babies by their second birthday. Most of the time it causes a mild illness but for some babies it leads to more severe lung problems and requires being admitted to hospital.

“If you have a baby under 12 months of age, we would be delighted to hear from you so we can let you know more about this study. You can find out more by visiting the study website.”

The study, which is a collaboration between Sanofi, its partner AstraZeneca, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), will evaluate the efficacy of nirsevimab. The antibody has recently been approved by both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The HARMONIE study is open to newborn babies, and babies who are up to 12 months old.

The study will last approximately 12 months and includes a single in person visit, with entirely virtual follow up visits.

Dr Simon Drysdale, Consultant Paediatrician in Infectious Diseases at St. George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Co-Chief Investigator of the study, said: “Previous Phase 3 studies have been completed to date and show that nirsevimab is safe and effective in preventing RSV in preterm and healthy infants. The HARMONIE study is looking to further assess the impact with more babies involved.

“The study is critical to helping the NHS, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) find out whether it is feasible and beneficial, to patients and the NHS, to routinely implement nirsevimab in healthy babies.”

Anyone interested in finding out more or signing up can visit the HARMONIE study website