Led by the exceptional Professor Peter Vuillermin, both a researcher and a paediatric clinician at Geelong University Hospital, the Barwon Infant Study is both internationally recognised and unique – remarkably, the only study of its kind in the world. The longitudinal study has been running for just over 4 years and is closely following over 1,000 Geelong mothers and their children collecting samples and taking measurements all designed to unlock the early life secrets of disease and health.
The resource that has been built is staggering with a collection of over 500,000 biological samples which is now arguably the most complete early life ‘biobank’ in the world. This, coupled with the additional data collected on the children, enables the team to tackle questions that literally no other group can, and according to Peter, the logistical advantage and community spirit of the Geelong region have been instrumental to the study’s success.
“This is where you are going to get the most ‘bang for your buck’. If you can understand the first 1,000 days of life, you can design preventative strategies to some of the most burdensome health problems facing the Australian and global community.”
“Our research brings together community effort and some of our best research minds – combining people-power with cutting-edge science! More than a thousand pregnant women from the greater Barwon region have enrolled in the Study. The recruitment of mothers and children from our own area has been critical as there is a broad cross section living in ‘mixed exposures’ of both city and rural environments.”
The Proof and the Potential
Significantly, Peter’s team has recently published a series of landmark papers in top ranking international journals, including The International Journal of Epidemiology and Science Translational Medicine. They have shown that babies who have exaggerated inflammatory responses at birth are at increased risk of developing food allergy, and have provided the first evidence that the microorganisms that colonise a baby at the time of birth may influence the risk of cardiovascular disease – heart attacks and strokes – in later life. With support, they are now ideally placed to take this intellectual momentum to the next stage.
You can read more about Professor Vuillermin and the work of his research team by clicking HERE