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Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM

Institute Director; Head, Strep A and Rheumatic Heart Disease; Co-Director of REACH


What would you discover to help a child?

The END RHD CRE: Developing an end game for rheumatic heart disease in Australia

In Australia, RHD is essentially a disease of the past for all but Indigenous populations and some groups living in poverty.

The END RHD CRE provides an opportunity to build a comprehensive, evidence based strategy for ending RHD and represents an untold opportunity to tackle the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We will undertake a number of projects across several disciplines of research with a special focus on documenting the experiences of those living with RHD. At the end of 5 years, the END RHD CRE will provide a roadmap to end RHD in Australia.

RHD Action

RHD Action is the name given to the global movement to reduce the burden of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in vulnerable populations of all ages throughout the world. Initiated in September 2014 under the auspices of the UN Every Woman Every Child commitment, this movement will add to ongoing global efforts contributing to the World Health Organization and World Heart Federation goals to reduce premature mortality by the year 2025.

The driving force behind this global movement are the RHD Action Founding Partners – a coalition of three global organizations – Medtronic Foundation, the World Heart Federation and Reach.

Critically reinforcing this global movement are the RHD Action Demonstration Countries – a cohort of countries wherein government and partner institutions are actively engaged in achieving specific RHD targets within their geographies, while also strengthening their health systems.

Coalition to advance new vaccines against group A streptococcus (CANVAS)

CANVAS is a commitment by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand to advance the development of a vaccine against GAS infection, which can cause rheumatic fever.

The CANVAS program is evaluating potential vaccines currently under development to identify at least one that could proceed to clinical trials.

The 3 main components to the CANVAS program are: obtaining a selection of the most common GAS strains; testing potential vaccines against these strains; and undertaking an economic analysis to evaluate if vaccination is cost-effective.

Genetic associations of rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Island communities

Rheumatic heart disease is highly prevalent in Aboriginal people in Australia and leads to early cardiac disease. Despite decades of research, the underlying genetic mechanisms for why it occurs are not well understood.

We are conducting a genetic study to better understand why some people are susceptible to RHD and others are not. The study will involve substantial Aboriginal leadership and consultation and will be a model for the conduct of genetic studies in Aboriginal populations.

Improving delivery of secondary prophylaxis for rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a major health problem in Indigenous communities.

Continued progress in controlling RHD requires an understanding of how to improve delivery of regular injections of penicillin - secondary prophylaxis (SP).

We will evaluate a systems-based approach to improving delivery of SP, in 10 communities in NT. If successful, this model will provide a practical and transferable approach that can be adopted nationally.

Reach: to stop rheumatic heart disease

Reach works to promote the health of vulnerable populations by providing technical support to local, regional and global efforts to prevent and control rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RF/RHD).

Founded as partnership between the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Telethon Kids Institute in Australia we bring together the considerable expertise of leaders in the fields of Streptococcus A, rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

As a collaborative organization, we partner with a broad range of stakeholders – including clinicians, other disease communities, academics, funders, governments, industry and people living with RHD – to achieve our common goals.

Reformulation of Penicillin G for the treatment and prevention of acute rheumatic fever and RHD

The most effective recommended treatment to prevent rheumatic heart disease (RHD) requires monthly injections of penicillin.

These injections are painful and difficult to administer and as a consequence many patients do not adhere to their treatment plan.

This research program aims to develop a reformulated version of penicillin that will provide a practical, less painful method of treatment and protection and vastly increase the number of patients being successfully managed.