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Leptospirosis project awarded Health Research Council funding


The Health Research Council has announced funding for a project on leptospirosis, led by Professor Jackie Benschop.


Professor Jackie Benschop.

Professor Jackie Benschop from the School of Veterinary Science has received a Research Project Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) for her project Enhancing leptospirosis diagnosis and outcomes for rural and Māori communities.

The grant is part of the HRC’s 2021 Health Delivery Research Investment round, which provides support for health delivery research of varying values and durations.

Professor Benschop’s grant is worth $1,399,858 over 48 months.

Successful research projects must have the potential to directly inform changes to health delivery policy, practice or systems and demonstrate a clear connection to a health care need.

Professor Benschop’s project will look at the incidence and diagnosis of leptospirosis transmission from animals to humans, and the resultant outcomes for rural and Māori communities.

“Leptospirosis is transmitted from animals to humans and in Aotearoa New Zealand is poorly ascertained with over 70 per cent of patient samples not being tested. With symptoms that can often be mistaken for the flu, coupled with a lack of public awareness about sources of transmission, the real incidence in Aotearoa is unknown,” Professor Benschop says.

She adds that as the disease is transmitted through the urine of infected animals, it can be harboured in water or soil and survive there for weeks.

Earlier research by Professor Benschop’s team identified that Māori in particular are underdiagnosed. ”The overall goal of this research is to reduce inequity through improved health outcomes via improved diagnostics and a communication campaign targeting at-risk communities, patients and clinicians in Aotearoa.”

This work builds on the team’s earlier work in Hawke’s Bay, working with Ngāti Kahungunu health providers, and has been expanded to include the Taranaki district.

More information about the grants is available here.

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