Work will target deadly virus to aid care of patients

01 July 2012

Professor Julian Bion and his research registrar Dr Nick Cowley have been collaborating with Professor Paul Moss, consultant haematologist at UHB, and world authority in CMV research, as well as Dr Husam Osman, UHB consultant in virology to design a new study looking at ways of preventing the recurrence of an infection called cytomegalovirus in patients in critical care.

Cytomegalovirus is a common virus and is a member of the herpes family.

As people age they are more likely to contract the infection, but most healthy people will never know they have it.

However, the infection can recur in patients whose immune system is less effective due to medication or illness.

For these critically ill patients, a recurrence of the infection is potentially extremely serious and even life threatening.

The research team will use an anti-body test to establish which patients have already been exposed to the infection.

Some of these patients will then be given anti-viral medication to stop CMV recurring.

Their outcomes will be compared with those of the remaining eligible patients, who will not receive the drugs.

“The older a person gets, the more likely he or she is to have contracted CMV, but it’s only when a patient is immunosuppressed that it recurs,” Professor Bion said.

“That recurrence can cause serious problems for a critically ill patient and we want to find out if the prophylactic use of anti-virals can help stop this happening, “We hope that, if this trial is successful, then we can develop a large, multi-centre trial to further develop what we know about this type of treatment.

“I’m delighted we can move forward with this work, because it could help some of our most seriously ill patients and ultimately help many more in critical care units around the country.”

If successful, the research could lay the basis for new ways of preventing this virus from causing further serious, long-term health problems for patients who are already critically ill.