Australian researchers examining how the flu affects the immune response of young children are looking for children to take part in a new study. 

The research, to be led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), will ultimately help scientists develop more effective flu vaccines, and participating children (aged six months to five years) will be vaccinated against flu and monitored over a year.

MCRI's Infection and Immunity Leader, Associate Professor Nigel Crawford said most children have had the flu by the time they are five, but little is understood about how the virus interacts with a child's immune system and affects subsequent responses to influenza vaccine.

"New research from the US has found that the influenza virus can reprogram a child's immune system for future flu exposure, but the impact varies depending on which strain of flu you get as a child," he said.

"We need to learn more about how children's immune systems respond to the flu because this can also shape how we react to flu vaccines as adults."

For the study, researchers will work closely with scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

MCRI will also work closely with Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital and the Children's Hospital Westmead in Sydney.

"The chief aim of the study is to assist in the creation of a more effective universal influenza vaccine," University of Melbourne Professor Kanta Subbarao from the Doherty Institute said. "We are hoping to recruit 40-50 subjects in this first year of the study with an additional 10 children next year." 

To be eligible for the study children must not have had this year's flu vaccine and age aged between six months to five years of age. Participating children will receive the influenza vaccine and have three blood tests this year, and the next year. 

Interested parents can contact the SAEFVIC flu surveillance team at the Royal Children's Hospital for more information on (03) 9345 5066 or email  

Available for interview:  
•    A/Prof Nigel Crawford, MCRI's Infection and Immunity Leader

Media Contact 
Christine Tondorf
MCRI communications specialist (media/PR)
+613 9936 6197 or 0413 307 092

Bridie Byrne
MCRI communications specialist (media/PR)
+613 9936 6211 or 0403 664 416