Fever prevention to be tested locally
What is rheumatic fever?
A clinical trial of a product once regarded as an alternative remedy is about to begin in Porirua.
University of Otago researchers will test a naturopathic probiotic product called BLIS on about 2000 children at Porirua primary schools.
For three terms from midAugust, school staff will distribute BLIS lozenges each day at the chosen schools.
A pilot study of the product has shown a 90 per cent reduction in the particular sore throat infections that can lead to rheumatic fever. However, no formal random, double-blind trials have been carried out.
Lead researcher Professor Julian Crane was cautiously optimistic. He said he was ‘‘excited’’ by the trial and that BLIS could reduce rheumatic fever-type sore throats.
‘‘If you look at the way it works and the things that have been found in other studies it has great potential, but we have to be sceptical.’’
A more rigorous trial was needed, first to determine conclusively whether it worked and, if so, how much was needed.
Rheumatic fever is a comparatively rare disease in the developed world, other than in New Zealand and Australia, and it has taken a long time for the probiotic to be seriously investigated, Crane said.
‘‘Normally when you have a new drug and are looking down the barrel of making millions, there’s a lot of incentive.’’
The product could be effective, but Crane was cautious.
‘‘The chances of it being as good as that are remote,’’ he said.
It would be difficult to distribute effectively and would not be a complete, long-term solution, but it could offer a respite while a more effective one was found.
‘‘As a long-term thing we would want something like a vaccination that would stop the bug.’’
Mana naturopath Fiona Paulsen was not surprised to hear that probiotics might help prevent rheumatic fever, and was delighted formal trials would take place.
‘‘It has been long known that using the right strains of probiotics can help lots of things,’’ she said. ‘‘Seventy to 80 per cent of your immune system is controlled by cells in your gut. If your gut flora is out of balance it won’t work properly.’’
Naturopaths tried to promote probiotics, but unless doctors were saying the same thing, it was Rheumatic fever is a serious illness, which in New Zealand most often affects Maori and Pacific children, and young adults, aged between 4 to 19 years.
What are the potential consequences?
It can lead to arthritis and permanent heart damage.
What is the first sign? difficult, she said.
Little formal research had taken place because the probiotic was already available, so could not result in big pharmaceutical company profits.
Prevention of rheumatic fever was likely to reduce dependence
A particular kind of sore throat called Group A Streptococcal infection. What is the probiotic? A naturally occurring bacterium which uses a bacteriocin-like inhibitory substance – BLIS – to kill the bacteria causing Group A Streptococcal infection sore throats. on antibiotics and other drugs, she said.
The schools involved in the trial are Brandon, Cannons Creek, Corinna, Glenview, Holy Family, Maraeroa, Natone, Russell, Tairangi, Te Kura Maori o Porirua and Windley.