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Potential vaccines for rheumatic fever researched

Trans-Tasman research collaboration to identify potential vaccines for rheumatic fever

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has announced the funding of a trans-Tasman research coalition to accelerate the development of a vaccine against Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infection, which can cause rheumatic fever.

The governments of New Zealand and Australia have each committed initial funding of NZ$1.5 million over 18 months to support research to identify potential vaccines for GAS.

Rheumatic fever is a significant issue for Māori, Pacific Island, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. An effective vaccine would reduce the disease burden of rheumatic fever in these communities in Australia and New Zealand.

Rheumatic fever is a serious illness, which in New Zealand most often affects Māori and Pacific children and young adults, aged 4 to 19 years. It can lead to scarring of the heart valves and sometimes an early death in adults. The disease delivers a heavy burden on families, the community, and health services.

In February 2013, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon. John Key, and the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Rt Hon. Julia Gillard, released a joint statement agreeing to jointly provide funding to support a trans-Tasman collaboration to identify potential vaccines for rheumatic fever.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the HRC have been given responsibility for overseeing this trans-Tasman initiative.

The Coalition to Advance New Vaccines for Group A Streptococcus (CANVAS) led by Professor John Fraser at the University of Auckland and Professor Jonathan Carapetis in Australia, will evaluate and accelerate development of a preventive vaccine selected from three vaccines already in development overseas.

Health Minister Tony Ryall welcomes this collaboration that complements the Government’s existing investment to combat rheumatic fever, including the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme.

“Reducing rheumatic fever is a priority for the Government. We have invested more than $65 million over six years to combat this preventable illness, including supporting the development of a vaccine. This agreement shows just how seriously the Government is taking the fight against rheumatic fever,” he said.


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