Andrew Steer

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Award-winning heart research could help prevent rheumatic heart disease

Professor Andrew Steer is a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow whose research into Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) won the 2017 Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research. 

Heart research making an impact

“I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve had support from the Heart Foundation throughout my research career. That’s been amazing and has allowed me to pursue an independent research career,” Professor Steer says.

“I can’t describe how important that support has been for me and my team (and) for us to follow our own ideas with independence.”

Professor Steer’s heart research is looking at innovative steps to better identify and manage the potentially deadly condition Rheumatic Heart Disease.

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?

Rheumatic Heart Disease is a chronic disease that leads to the damage of one or more heart valves. The condition begins in childhood and is caused by an infection by the bacteria, group A streptococcus.

Rheumatic Heart Disease is a major health problem in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Across the world, the condition affects more than 33 million people living in tropical areas and leads to over 300,000 premature deaths each year.

Professor Steer’s big discovery

“One of the big discoveries over the last couple of years was a really key clinical trial that we conducted in Fiji. It speaks to the potential impact of group A strep infection in the skin contributing to Rheumatic Heart Disease,” Professor Steer explains.

“In this trial, we showed that we can prevent up to 95% of these skin infections with a once-a-year treatment.”

Research that could help to prevent heart disease

“What is really exciting now is to see whether we can take that very simple and inexpensive treatment and run it into larger trials to see if we can also prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease,” Professor Steer says.

A message from Professor Steer to Heart Foundation supporters

“By people around Australia contributing to the Heart Foundation, this translates into support for people like me and the work I do and, in that way, directly influences heart research in Australia.”