International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD) Toronto 2022
Two Murdoch Children’s Research Institute researchers have been recognised for their research that aims to prevent and better treat bacterial pneumonia in children in the South Pacific and Asia.

Dr Elissavet Nikolaou and Eleanor Neal received the Robert Austrian Research Awards at the International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD) in Canada today.

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacterium known as pneumococcus. Most people carry pneumococci in their nose and throat without symptoms, but it can spread from the nose and throat and cause ear, lung, blood, and brain infections.
Dr Elissavet Nikolaou
Pneumococcal disease is a leading contributor to deaths among young children globally, with over 100 million cases and 800,000 deaths annually. Over 40 per cent of these deaths occur in Asia, and children in low- and middle-income countries bear the heaviest disease burden.

Dr Nikolaou’s ( pictured, left) project aims to use a new testing process to improve the diagnosis of a severe complication of pneumonia and generate much-needed data on pneumococcal variations that could better inform vaccine strategies and programs in Asia.

“The burden of invasive pneumococcal disease is likely underestimated in Asia, creating the misconception that it is uncommon in the region,” Dr Nikolaou said. In order to generate more data on pneumococcal variations, we will recruit 400 children in major hospitals in Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Cambodia, which will help measure the disease burden in the region.”

Dr Nikolaou said she hoped the study could provide accurate information to underpin decision-making for vaccine programs and strategies in Asia.
Dr Eleanor Neal holding her Robert Austrian Research Award
Dr Neal’s (pictured, right) project aims to improve health outcomes for children in Fiji by reducing the number of doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PcC) from three to two.

“In 2012, Fiji introduced PCV as a three-dose schedule, in line with most other countries. High coverage has been sustained, and pneumococcal disease has declined,” Dr Neal said. But PCV is expensive and other lifesaving vaccines are needed too. A two-dose PCV schedule can only be introduced after herd immunity is reached.”

In 2020, the UK moved from a three to two-dose schedule, which was backed by national disease surveillance and mathematical modelling.

But Dr Neal said disease surveillance had been lacking in low- and middle-income countries, and epidemiological criteria must be defined to determine if a two-dose schedule was suitable. Her project will contribute the epidemiological evidence for Fiji to switch to a two-dose schedule.

Dr Neal said this two-dose preventive vaccine could save about $2.15 billion over 10 years in low- and middle-income countries. In Fiji, removing one PCV dose from the schedule would free health budget funds, potentially for other life-saving vaccines.

The Robert Austrian Research Awards were established to recognise Professor Robert Austrian’s lifetime commitment and achievements in advancing pneumococcal vaccine development.