Children Health Ireland’s National Centre for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition is a research active centre, with a long track record of working with the NCRC. The main research areas at present are infectious diarrhoeal disease of childhood, clinical epidemiology research on digestive diseases of childhood, and studies of inflammatory bowel disease. Childhood is a time of tremendous growth and development, and any disease that affects a child’s ability to absorb nutrients can have a major impact on their ability to grow and develop normally, and can significantly disrupt their normal life, including participation in school and social activities.
Infectious diarrhoeal disease is one of the major causes of infant mortality worldwide. Professors Billy Bourke and Ulla Knaus have a longstanding research partnership studying Campylobacter jejuni, a major human intestinal pathogen and the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis. Together with a group of close collaborators that include Drs Marguerite Clyne and Tadhg O’Croinin at UCD, and the National Children’s Research Centre, they have developed an internationally competitive infection biology research programme. They also have close collaborative ties with leading national and international scientists in the area of Campylobacter pathogenesis.
The Centre also has a track record in clinical epidemiology research on digestive diseases of childhood. Together with Dr Marion Rowland, a clinical epidemiologist recognized internationally for her work on the epidemiology of H. pylori, Professor Burke has a major research interest in the epidemiology of cystic fibrosis-associated liver disease. This work is focused on understanding the population incidence and risk factors for the development of liver disease and its complications among Irish children with cystic fibrosis.
The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease is significantly rising in children and the NCRC has worked closely with the gastroenterology team at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital to develop a long-term biobank of samples from all children newly diagnosed with this condition, the DOCHAS biobank. The aim is to allow new biomarker discovery and the identification of new therapeutic targets for this debilitating disease affecting children.