AIT research could lead to new pneumonia treatment

An AIT research project, which could lead to the development of a treatment for pneumonia, has been announced as part of a €13.5m package in health research funding by Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar.

Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology and collaborators from NUI Galway will conduct research using a novel combination of adult stem cells and medicinal fungi to see if they can help the immune system fight pneumonia infections. The researchers hope the result could, in the long term, help introduce an alternative to antibiotics.

This Health Research Board (HRB )-funded project (€278,000 ) will target bacterial pneumonia which is the most common cause of acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which affect 19 per cent of intensive care patients in Ireland.

According to Professor Rowan: “While there have been staggering advances in medicine, pneumonia is still a common disease in Ireland accounting for approximately 5 per cent of deaths and it is the most frequent cause of deaths worldwide. With increased use of invasive surgical processes and immunosuppression, the incidence is likely to increase in the years ahead. There is therefore a pressing need to develop novel therapies as described in this HRB project to treat these respiratory diseases.

“The interdisciplinary AIT and NUIG team, including Professor John Laffey and Dr Dan O’Toole, is extremely excited about the potential of this novel therapeutic intervention and will work to produce critical research data for follow on phase 1 clinical trials,” Professor Rowan stated.

Some 190 research projects were submitted to the HRB for funding, with 36 chosen. The HRB will monitor progress in each project.

Announcing the investment, Minister Varadkar said: “Many of these projects receiving funding today will go on to make a real difference to people’s lives, not just in Ireland but around the world.”

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