Monash University leads vaccination trial against heart disease and stroke

Melburnians are taking part in a world-first trial led by Monash University that could see a simple one-off vaccination protect against heart attack and stroke.

The trial, which started late last year, aims to determine whether the pneumococcal vaccine can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to 20 per cent. Observational studies indicate the injection can lead to a 17 per cent protection against cardiovascular disease, but this is the first large scale study to be conducted.

Monash University leads vaccination trial against heart disease and stroke
Professor Andrew Tonkin and Dr Ingrid Hopper (Photo: Monash University)

The Australian Study for the Prevention through Immunisation of Cardiovascular Events (AUSPICE) trial is being coordinated by the Centre for Cardiovascular Research and Education in Therapeutics (CCRET) within the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (SPHPM). The trial is led by Principal Investigator Professor Andrew Tonkin and assisted by Dr Ingrid Hopper and will be based at Caulfield Hospital.

AUSPICE is recruiting up to 3,000 men and women aged 55 to 60 years across six centres in Melbourne, Newcastle, Gosford, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.

The study will formally test whether the existing pneumococcal vaccine can not only reduce invasive pneumococcal disease but also help to prevent heart attack and stroke. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against diseases such as meningitis and is currently free under the National Immunise Australia Program for people over 65, children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children.

According to Dr Hopper, if the trial proves to be successful it will signify a major change in preventative health practice globally.

“If shown to be effective, it would be relatively easy to incorporate changes into clinical practice because the pneumococcal vaccine is safe and has already been used in Australia for over 20 years in a different target group,” Dr Hopper said.

Victorian volunteers, aged 60–64, are asked to attend a single clinic at the Caulfield Clinical Trials Centre in Melbourne, for less than one hour. People with at least two risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or overweight/obesity—will be randomised to receive either the active vaccine or a saline placebo.

This collaboration between Monash University, the University of Newcastle, Australian National University, Flinders University and The University of Western Australia comprises a large multidisciplinary team including cardiologists, epidemiologists, neurologists, nurse immunisers, pharmacists, public health and medicine physicians and biostatisticians.

The researchers will link, via the Federal Department of Health hospital admission records, the incidence of cardiovascular disease requiring hospitalisation among those who received the vaccine and those who received the placebo.

Study Public Health at Monash University

The Master of Public Health at Monash is a 12-unit program provides students with the full range of quantitative, analytical and communication skills necessary to work in the broad domain of public health. It especially focuses on developing skills in the quantitative methods of the population-based health sciences and their problem-solving application for primary care provision both in Australia and for developing countries.

Program: Master of Public Health
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Semester intake: February
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline: While there is no set application deadline for this program, applicants are strongly encouraged by the university to submit their applications a minimum of three months prior to the program’s start date.

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Study Medicine at Monash University

The Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine at Monash University has been designed in close consultation with doctors, health care professionals and leaders in the health and research sectors to give students the scientific background and clinical expertise to ensure that graduates are prepared for their future as a doctor.

Program: Bachelor of Medical Science Doctor of Medicine (graduate entry)
Location: Gippsland Campus, Churchill, Victoria (approx. 2 hours southeast of Melbourne)
Semester intake: February 2018
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: July 21, 2017


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