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Hui Xin Ong – update April 2014

My time at Southampton University has been engaging, fun and productive so far. Over the past month, I have made significant progress with my research project.

We have submitted our plans for review by the ethics committee and are currently waiting for their approval to start the clinical trial.

In the meantime, I have received training on good clinical practice, radiation protection, a technique called mass spectrometry, which is used to understand more about antibiotics and how they work and lung function tests such as spirometry, to monitor the volunteers’ response to treatment.

What is the research design?

The aim of my project is to investigate the effectiveness of two inhaled drugs. The research will look at whether changing the timing and the order the drugs are taken in can improve the outcomes of this treatment. The drugs we are looking at are tobramycin, an antibiotic which is used to fight an infection, and mannitol, a mucoactive agent, which is used to make the mucus less sticky and increase the clearance of mucus from the lungs.

We know that it is beneficial for antibiotics to stay in the lungs as long as possible to help treat the infection before it is cleared out by the body.

Clearance of the antibiotic can happen through two ways:

Our project was designed to look at whether the order of taking the antibiotic and the mucoactive agent could be altered to allow the antibiotic to remain in the lungs for a longer period of time.

To investigate the effect of changing the timing and order of the drugs on antibiotic absorption, blood samples will be taken from healthy volunteers, whereas mucus clearance will be measured using an imaging system to give a series of colourful pictures showing how much of the antibiotic has gone.

What are the project outcomes?

The ultimate goal of the research is to improve the current treatments and to enhance patient care. A team of researchers specialising in a range of areas will be involved. This has provided me with the opportunity to meet different professors, physicians and researchers from various research backgrounds that are either directly involved with the trial or looking for possible collaborations.

Additionally, a series of small projects has been lined up in the areas of inhalation drug therapy and lung cell biology with the focus on how this could be translated to clinical studies. This could strengthen collaborative ties between the UK and Australia.