How do we solve a problem like neonatal sepsis?
Neonatal sepsis accounts for >410,000 deaths (15%) in the first month of life and remains challenging to diagnose and treat, with survivors often suffering from life-long impairment. Susceptibility is largely dependent on innate immune development, but the innate defence pathways responsible for recognition and control of neonatal sepsis pathogens are poorly characterised in the newborn. Moreover, it is unknown: (i) whether these defence pathways differ in individuals who develop infection; (ii) if such differences are related to changes in immune metabolic function and; (iii) if such differences can be exploited to improve timely diagnosis. Using a combined, untargeted transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic approach to study healthy and septic preterm infants, we have begun to map out the critical innate immune-metabolic defences against sepsis. I will present on our recent work exploring the maturation of these pathways, the impact of exposure to in utero inflammation on their development, and the use of novel immunomodulators to treat and prevent neonatal sepsis. I will also highlight some very promising findings in preventing neonatal sepsis that stem from an unexpectedly simple solution.
Andrew co-heads the Neonatal Infection and Immunity Team with Neonatologist A/Prof Tobias Strunk at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccine & Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute and leads the Sepsis Diagnostics Research Group with the Centre for Molecular Medicine & Innovative Therapeutics at Murdoch University. As a basic scientist with over 20 years of experience in the fields of immunology and infectious disease, his current research combines current cellular and molecular ‘omics’ methodologies with primary human and animal samples, to understand how the immune system contributes to defence against infection in sepsis. The groups goal is to trial and translate key research findings into cost-effective diagnostics and safe therapies for preventing and limiting infection and inflammation in septic human of all ages, as well a companion and production animals.