AS WE age our immune system, which is designed to fight infection and disease, becomes less effective often impacting our overall health and quality of life.
Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) which in our younger years we would have managed with a couple of cold and flu tablets and a hot lemon drink, can become seriously debilitating for older people often leading to hospitalisation and even death.
Now researchers in Australia are looking for people over 65 to trial a new immune boosting drug which may reduce the incidence of RTIs.
Recent scientific findings, including those published in the scientific journals Cell, Nature and Science, suggest that ageing and ageing-related conditions, including reduced immunity, are not only caused by random cellular wear and tear, but also to specific intra-cellular signaling pathways in the body.
The drug, RTB 101, developed by American pharmaceutical company resTORbio works to inhibit a multi-protein complex in the body called TORC1.
Previous studies with older people have shown that inhibiting TORC1 can boost immunity particularly in relation to RTIs.
TORC1 inhibition has also been observed to prolong lifespan, enhance immune function, ameliorate heart failure, enhance memory and mobility, decrease adiposity and delay the onset of aging-related diseases in multiple animal studies.
The study, which has been approved by Australian government health authorities, will involve subjects receiving 16 weeks supply of RTB 101 and keeping a digital diary (on a device supplied by the researchers) recording their health and any signs of RTIs.
Participants need to be 65 years or over (there is no upper limit). They must not a smoker, have Type 1 diabetes, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, have had a heart attack within the previous six months or be on immune suppressant drugs.
Study participants will also need make regular visits to one of the 16 research centres taking part in the trial across Australia. Having received the flu vaccine does not effect eligibility. Prospective participants will also have a screening prior to acceptance into the trial.
There are also a number of sites in New Zealand where previous two trials of the drug were conducted.
One thousand trial participants are being sought for this phase three trial.
The trial is being conducted during the southern hemisphere winter as the prevalence of RTIs is highest at this time.
Current trial sites:
NSW: Sydney, Blacktown, Darlinghurst, Broadmeadow, Hurstville, Kanwal (Central Coast)
Queensland: Sippy Downs, Greenslopes, South Brisbane, Fortitude Valley
South Australia: Adelaide
Western Australia: Perth, Halls Head, Nedlands, Murdoch
Some travel costs may be reimbursed.
Respiratory tract infections and older people
The majority of RTIs are caused by viruses for which there are no approved therapies. Despite this antibiotics are often prescribed which are ineffective, may cause side-effects and contribute to the growing global concern of antibiotic resistance.
Mortality among the over 75s is highest each year during the winter cold and flu season. In the United States RTIs are the fifth leading cause of death in people aged 85 and over and the seventh leading cause of death in people aged 65 and over.
Australia is already bracing itself for a record flu season with all states already recording high levels of infection. Several aged care homes have been badly affected and hospitals are reporting multiple cases.
Some 40,000 cases have been confirmed and several deaths have already been reported.
Further information and to see if you are eligible for the trial: click HERE