Mild flu season not all good news
Fewer people caught the influenza this winter but that was bad news for Kyle Perrin.
Dr Perrin is co-leading a research project studying the use of paracetamol to treat flu in Wellington, but his work has been slowed by a lack of subjects.
Dr Perrin said evidence suggests that developing a fever in response to infection can be beneficial, because many human viruses are killed by temperatures higher than 38°C.
His study aims to find out whether taking medicines such as paracetamol could make flu worse and slow recovery.
‘‘We are testing the theory that influenza should be allowed to run its course,’’ he said.
A random trial of 80 patients will be carried out at the new clinical trials unit at Wellington Hospital.
‘‘Patients who are enrolled need to spend a least 48 hours with the unit so we can record their temperatures and give them either a placebo or paracetamol,’’ he said.
Patients can be enrolled for the study if they have the flu, but would not otherwise have been admitted to hospital.
‘‘We are taking a group of patients who would otherwise be told to go home have a rest on the couch and cups of tea.
‘‘Patients aren’t regarded as in-patients, they’re study subjects.’’
Anyone who becomes seriously ill after being enrolled would be transferred to the hospital’s emergency department for treatment, he said.
Paracetamol has been given to reduce fever in the past in the belief that a very high temperature could induce febrile convulsions but it is not likely, Dr Perrin said.
‘‘A person with infectious disease might get to 40 degrees but very rarely higher than that.’’
Higher temperatures are usually caused by either trauma to the brain reducing its ability to control temperature, or drug reaction, he said.