September 1, 2022
When Ballajura mum-of-five Filomena Notte saw a callout to families to consider enrolling their children in a simple sore throat study that could help global efforts to combat deadly Strep A infections, she didn’t think twice.
Already a committed volunteer and a big believer in contributing to the community, she asked herself whether what was being sought was something she and her family could do.
“I contacted the study team to find out more about what was involved and then thought ‘Of course we can do this – we’re able to do it, so why wouldn’t we?’” Filomena said.
“I figured they basically needed everyone they could get, and as a family we’re willing to do things like that.”
The Sore Throat Study – jointly run by researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne – is looking to enrol 1050 healthy children and young people aged 3-14 across Perth and Victoria so they can find out more about the causes of sore throats, and how to prevent them.
The study is an important first step towards a vaccine against the bacteria Strep A, which can be one cause of mild throat infections and impetigo (also known as skin sores or school sores). If left untreated, Strep A can lead to severe diseases which can cause heart and kidney failure, including rheumatic heart disease.
Participation involves one baseline visit with the research team followed by two seasonal check-ups, which can be done by a nurse (for Perth participants) at Perth Children’s Hospital or by the parents in the comfort of the participant’s own home.
Each visit involves throat swabs and a blood test, which can be done via a simple finger prick test. If the child gets a sore throat at some point during the period of their involvement, the team may arrange to collect extra samples and information.
The basic tests involved in the study were another motivating factor for Filomena when she decided to enrol her two youngest children, Isabella and Beau, then aged 11 and 8, as participants. She thought it would be a good way to familiarise them with common healthcare procedures like throat swabs and blood tests.
“I wanted them to have this experience, knowing that their healthcare isn’t so scary,” she said.
“But I also thought it would be a great opportunity for them to be a part of something that is much needed for now and the future of our children’s health. I hadn’t realised before how serious Strep A actually could be.”
Isabella and Beau, who have now completed their 12-month involvement in the study, said they were proud to think they could be helping to save the lives of others in the future simply by contributing throat and blood samples.
“I feel happy to participate and also for being a part of Telethon Kids Institute and knowing what I am doing is very important.” – Isabella, 12
“I feel very proud of myself for helping.” – Beau, 9.
Filomena encouraged other parents to enrol their children in the study, saying it hadn’t involved a huge commitment of time.
“All sorts of things can stop people from taking part in things like this, but if your kids are willing to do it and you’re able to do it – why not take the chance to contribute to research?” she said.
“I know my kids will always remember having done this.”
Find out more about the Sore Throat Study and how you can get involved.