WA mother and newborn biobank contributes to global COVID-19 research collaboration

A man leans against a balustradeAt work, Professor Shail Mehta (pictured right) is a neonatologist but at home he is a dad to three young children.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Western Australia early in 2020, it was both of these important roles that inspired the Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) consultant to take on Lead Principal Investigator for the Pregnancy, Newborn and Paediatrics Database and Biobanking Project, also known as the PANDA project.

“Being a neonatal paediatrician, my first thoughts were about my little patients who I look after every day but being a father of three children, I was also worried about my kids getting the infection,” Professor Mehta said.

“When COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, everybody was naturally concerned about this new virus and how it spread amongst children, or from pregnant women to their babies or from one baby to another baby.

“There were also a lot of unknowns regarding the short and long term effects of the infection on the health of pregnant women, children and newborns including changed lifestyle and stress that could influence multiple aspects of pregnancy, neonatal life and early childhood.”

To obtain answers to these questions, the PANDA project was formed as a collaborative platform to prospectively collect data and biological samples for COVID-19 positive mothers, newborns and older children across the South Metropolitan Health Service.

In anticipation of a global pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) supported the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) to develop a rapid response platform for clinical trials for Severe Acute Respiratory Infection.

“Through the PANDA project, we are submitting our COVID-19 data into the WHO ISARIC which enables statistics and biological samples to be collected in a globally harmonised manner,” Professor Mehta said.

“There are a number of benefits that come with these standardised processes including improved data quality, reduced error of measurement and increased statistical power through the ability to combine and compare outcomes on a grand scale.”

The Western Australian Health Translation Network (WAHTN) COVID Research Response team leads the WHO ISARIC platform and comprises senior clinicians, researchers and administrators within the WAHTN network.

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Last Updated: 18/08/2021