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Researchers at the University of Oxford are looking for children with flu-like illness, who may be at greater risk of developing further complications from flu, to take part in a national study.

We therefore want to find out whether giving antibiotics early to children who we already know are at greater risk of bacterial complications can prevent these complications from developing and help children to recover more quickly.
- Dr Kay Wang, Chief Investigator, Archie Study

For most children, flu is a mild and relatively short illness. However, for those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cerebral palsy, as well as some children who were born prematurely, flu may lead to more serious complications such as pneumonia and ear infections.

The ARCHIE study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, is working with a selection of GP surgeries and hospitals across England to see whether early antibiotic treatment may prevent these children from developing further complications from flu. 

Lead researcher, Dr Kay Wang, a practising GP and Academic Clinical Lecturer at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said:

“The flu virus seems to particularly predispose children to bacterial infections, which may make children with flu-like illness even more unwell.  We therefore want to find out whether giving antibiotics early to children who we already know are at greater risk of bacterial complications can prevent these complications from developing and help children to recover more quickly.”

Recent research conducted by Dr Wang and colleagues has shown that children who were born prematurely are around twice as likely to be admitted to hospital after developing flu or flu-like illness. The research also found that children with neurological conditions and diabetes were at greater risk of developing flu-related complications.

“If we find that early antibiotic treatment is effective in these children,” continued Dr Wang, “this will help guide more accurate targeting of antibiotics in the community, and help minimise the development of antibiotic resistance due to unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.”

“This year, fewer people have been consulting their doctor or nurse with flu-like illness.  While this is great news for the NHS and the general public, it has made recruitment for our study rather challenging.” added Dr Wang.

The researchers are calling on parents and children with underlying medical conditions, making them at risk of developing complications from flu, to considering participating in the ARCHIE study by contacting their nearest participating NHS site within the first five days of their child developing flu-like symptoms. Children will be tested to see whether they have the influenza virus and given a five-day course of study medication. Children may also have further optional tests to look at whether using antibiotics in this way may have implications for their effectiveness in treating future infections. 

Otherwise healthy children with flu or flu-like symptoms should be cared for at home.

Further details about the study and a list of participating hospitals and GP surgeries can be found at www.archiestudy.com

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