Common severe childhood infections, innate inflammatory responses and cardiometabolic risk: The VASCular changes aFter INfectious Diseases (VASCFIND) study

Research Opportunity
PhD students
Department / Centre
Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof David Burgner Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Siroon Bekkering Personal web page
Dr Toby Mansell Personal web page

Summary Infection, the commonest reason for childhood hospital admission, is a major driver of inflammation and is associated with cardiometabolic risk and disease. This established prospective study investigates how severe childhood infection affects innate inflammatory immune responses and cardiometabolic health. It encompasses both clinical assessments and laboratory studies.

Project Details

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in adults, but the underlying cause - ‘hardening of the arteries’ (atherosclerosis) - begins in childhood. Inflammation, a normal response to infection, may contribute to atherosclerosis. Infections are common and severe childhood infections predict adult cardiovascular disease.

Recently, we have reported that infections in infancy are associated with an adverse metabolomic and lipid profile at one year of age (PMID: 35535496). In a unique study (VASCular changes aFter INfectious Diseases, VASCFIND), we are currently measuring early cardiovascular changes in children with recent severe infection. Over 100 children have been recruited so far.

This project investigates:

  • innate inflammatory immune responses and the role of trained immunity
  • non-invasive cardiovascular and metabolic phenotypes
  • underlying mechanisms, particularly metabolomic and lipidomic profiles

The PhD therefore involves patient recruitment, clinical assessments and molecular laboratory work, with a substantial analytical component. The successful applicant will join a dynamic, friendly and productive research group with considerable expertise in these areas. Dedicated Research Assistants assist with recruitment and cardiometabolic assessments.

Full training and support is available. The novel findings from this project will increase understanding of the immunological effects of severe infection and the early development of cardiovascular disease, paving the way to earlier intervention and prevention and result in a number of high impact publications that will form the basis of the PhD thesis.

The project would be suitable for dynamic individuals with a clinical and/or laboratory background. To receive a reply, interested applicants should contact the supervisors with:

  • their CV (including academic references)
  • details of their GPA (applicants should have H1 Honours and a GPA of >80, or equivalent)
  • an original brief synopsis (max 1 page) addressing why trained innate immunity may be relevant to the research project.

This is to gauge the student’s writing proficiency and should be their own work. Enquiries from overseas students who meet these criteria are welcome.

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine, Cardiometabolic

Research Opportunities

PhD students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre


Research Node

Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

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