September 01, 2014
Study to probe rheumatic mystery
Medical researchers are setting out to find out what causes a disease affecting a disproportionate number of Maori and Pacific Island children.
Professor Michael Baker from the University of Otago, Wellington says the medical profession doesn’t know much more about the causes of rheumatic fever than it did in the 1950s.
A particular mystery is why most people with a strep sore throat get over the infection and only a tiny fraction develop acute rheumatic fever and chronic rheumatic heart disease.
Over the next two years the study will look to recruit 200 children and teenagers with rheumatic fever and 400 young people who do not have the disease.
It will start in Auckland and extend to Northland, Waikato and other parts of the North Island later.
Factors to be investigated include household crowding, sleeping arrangements, home heating, washing facilities, tobacco smoke exposure, dental health, health care access and nutrition, including plausible risk factors such as vitamin D deficiency.
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