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Olympic sprinter Iwan Thomas spotlights Group B strep vaccine study

Updated: Sep 29, 2022



Olympian Iwan Thomas has thanked “amazing” staff at the Princess Anne Hospital for his son Teddy’s life-saving care in a BBC report for new clinical research in Southampton.


Teddy suffered an infection called Group B streptococcus, also known as Group B strep.

It affects two to four in 10 women and is usually harmless in adults. But it can be very dangerous to unborn and newborn babies.


“When my son was born everything was amazing, but it quickly went downhill,” Iwan said. “I soon expected the worst. Teddy spent his first 10 days fighting for his life, and if it wasn’t for everyone at the Princess Anne Hospital, I wouldn’t have him here with me now.


"I want to say a huge thank you for the amazing work they do. Teddy is now a bundle of energy. It’s all thanks to their continuing hard work that families like mine get to take their loved one home and see them become happy and healthy.”


Group B strep vaccine


Iwan returned to University Hospital Southampton with Teddy to report on the trial of a new Group B Strep vaccine for BBC Morning Live.


The new vaccine is being developed by Danish company MinervaX. The hope is that, by giving it to pregnant women, it will protect their baby during pregnancy and birth.


“It’s hugely exciting to see the progress of this new vaccine,” Iwan says. “If this work saves just one family from losing a child to this awful infection, then it will all have been worth it.”


Dr Chrissie Jones, Southampton study lead, says: “A safe and effective Group B Strep vaccine would be a game-changer for newborn infants, both in the UK and globally. This is a significant infection in newborn babies, that can be life-threatening and can also cause long-term problems in those babies who recover from the infection.


“A vaccine against Group B Strep would be a massive step forwards in our ability to protect newborn infants from serious infection. We are inviting pregnant women from the Southampton area to help us test this vaccine.”


Taking part


The MinervaX vaccine has already been given to non-pregnant and pregnant women in previous studies, with no safety concerns.


It has been shown to induce a strong immune response even in people with low levels of pre-existing immunity to the bacteria.


The next stage of the research is investigating the best time to offer the vaccine to pregnant women, to provide the most protection for their babies after birth.


The study is being held in the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, part of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, and St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London.


Women who are pregnant without complications can take part in the study.


Participants will start the study at about 20 weeks of pregnancy and be followed through six months after delivery. There are 12 hospital visits in total including a screening visit. Volunteers can be reimbursed for travel costs.


For more information on the study, please contact reprohealthresearcht@uhs.nhs.uk.


Iwan’s report for BBC Morning Live is available for 11 months on BBC iPlayer (starts at 10:00):

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