Indian-Swedish research project for reduced infant mortality
New research from Karolinska Institutet sheds light on the infections that cause pneumonia in Indian children. A major joint project between the countries has been set up to eventually reduce infant deaths from the disease.
"What we're doing can have a tremendous impact, not only on sick children in India but also globally," said principal investigator Professor Sunit Singhi from India's PGIMER (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) university hospital on visiting Karolinska Institutet recently.
Every year, 1.4 million children die from pneumonia around the world, and in India it is the main cause of death for children under the age of five. One serious problem is that around half of the children who develop the disease in India never seek help. A lack of education amongst parents and tight financial resources mean that many are not hospitalised until it is too late.
"In future, we'd like to intervene quickly to give the right treatment to all children," says Professor Singhi, who, together with doctors from Karolinska Institutet, has been leading an Indian research project since 2011 on Pneumonia in Children.
To date, some 1,000 Indian children with pneumonia have participated in the study and have given blood samples, been x-rayed and undergone a thorough medical examination. The material is compiled and analysed continuously by the Indian research team, which will be presenting its results at the end of 2013.
"The aim is to identify the kinds of bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia in India," says leader of the Swedish side of the project, Dr Anna Nilsson, associate professor at Karolinska Institutet. "The results will enable us to work preventively and provide the right treatment."
The aim is also to steer vaccination programmes in the right direction and to help doctors decide when antibiotics should be used to treat the disease. The ultimate goal is to prevent resource-demanding intensive care and, at worst, death.
Professor Singhi and Dr Nilsson are both proud of their international cooperation and stress that their countries have different but complementary strengths.
"In Sweden we have the financial resources, and a tradition of working in an organised, methodical manner that integrates healthcare and research," says Dr Nilsson.
"And we provide the large patient population," adds Professor Singhi.
They both hope that this collaboration between Sweden and India will last. Already waiting to start is another joint research project, this time on children's diseases of the central nervous system, such as meningitis and encephalitis.
Pneumonia in Children is a cooperation project between Karolinska Institutet, Astrid Lindgren Childrens Hospital and PGIMER university hospital in India. It is financed with money from the Paediatric Research Foundation, to which the IKEA Foundation in Holland has donated six million kronor for the project.