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If we find that early antibiotic treatment is effective, it will help doctors to target their use more effectively in future and reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in children who will most likely get better on their own.
- Dr Kay Wang, University of Oxford

Researchers at the University of Oxford are appealing for families of children born prematurely or with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy to take part in a national study. 

For most children, flu is a mild and relatively short illness. However, children with pre-existing medical conditions, or those born prematurely, may develop more serious complications from flu such as ear infections and pneumonia

The ARCHIE study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, is working with a selection of GP surgeries and hospitals across England and Wales to see whether early antibiotic treatment may prevent these ‘at risk’ children from becoming more unwell when they get flu.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Kay Wang, an Oxfordshire GP and Clinical Researcher at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said:

“We’re appealing to families with children who are vulnerable to complications from flu to help us with this important national study. The flu virus seems to particularly predispose children to bacterial infections, which may make those with flu-like illness even more unwell.  The ARCHIE study will help us to find out whether giving antibiotics within the first five days of getting flu-like symptoms can prevent these children developing more serious complications, such as chest and ear infections.”

“If we find that early antibiotic treatment is effective, it will help doctors to target their use more effectively in future and reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in children who will most likely get better on their own.”

Recent research conducted by Dr Wang and colleagues shows that children 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.

The research team are appealing to parents of children with underlying medical conditions to consider participating in the ARCHIE study by contacting their nearest participating hospital or GP surgery within the first five days of their child developing flu-like symptoms. Children will be have a nasal swab taken 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. 

Children with flu-like symptoms who are otherwise healthy are not eligible to participate in the ARCHIE Study.

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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