Dr Liz Whittaker is Senior Clinical Lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology. She divides her time between Imperial College London and the Department of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, St. Marys Hospital, London where she is a Consultant.
Dr Whittaker is the co-lead for HCID (high consequence infectious diseases) at St Marys. She is on the RCPCH COVID expert advisory group and the NHSE National Paediatric COVID Treatment Advice lead . Together with colleagues in paediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, as well as other paediatric centres in the UK, she described a novel inflammatory syndrome in children known as PIMS (paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome) or MIS-C (Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). She is a co-investigator on the NIH funded PREVAIL study exploring diagnostic and prognostic markers for COVID related conditions.
She is the co-lead for the Pan London Post-COVID service for Children and Young People (CYP) and a co-investigator on the NIHR funded CLoCK study looking at prevalence of Long COVID in CYP. She is also a co-investigator on other studies exploring pathogenesis and treatment of post COVID syndromes in CYP.
Her main research interests are the ontogeny of infant immune responses to a variety of pathogens. Her PhD data suggest that children under a year of age have an immaturity of their non-specific T cells or innate immune responses in conjunction with increased numbers of regulatory T cells. She expanded on this theme while an NIHR funded ACL and now by creating generic and specific assays that will examine the maturation of immune responses in children of different ages, from premature infants of different gestation to older children with 'mature' immune systems. The aim of this research is to develop biomarkers of infection for diagnostic purposes in neonates and to understand differences in immature immune responses that may lead to protection for this vulnerable group, either through vaccinations or immunomodulatory interventions in pregnancy and/or the early neonatal period. Understanding these differences is essential for the development of new adjuvants which will increase the efficacy of neonatal vaccinations to such pathogens as CMV, Group B streptococcus & RSV.
Her PhD students work on the impact of viral co-infection on tuberculosis (TB) susceptibility as well as factors that lead to increased susceptibility to TB disease and infection in adolescents.
Liz is the paediatric specialty co-lead for the northwest London Clinical Research Network. In this role, she leads the development of local clinical research network activity in paediatrics, encouraging local clinicians to participate in NIHR clinical research network portfolio studies. She is PI of a number of commercial and non-commercial studies on the NIHR portfolio.
Liz is the Convener of the British Paediatric Allergy, Immunity and Infection Group (BPAIIG) and co-lead of the British Association of Paediatric TB (BAPT).
Liz completed her Wellcome Trust funded PhD project "Immune responses to mycobacteria; the role of age and disease severity" in 2014. The project was supervised by Professor Beate Kampmann at Imperial College and Professors Mark Nicol and Heather Zar at the University of Cape Town, where all of the children were recruited at Red Cross Memorial Children's Hospital. She was fortunate to complete her lab work in the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine in Cape Town, working closely with both Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI) and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI).
She completed her undergraduate training in medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, including an HRB (Health Research Board) funded BSc in Biochemistry. This included a basic research project 'The role of NFkappaB in 5-Lipoxygenase activation' with Prof. Luke O'Neill for which she won the Bruno Orsi Medal for best research project. Following this she trained as a paediatrician in London and was successfully awarded an Academic Clinical Fellowship in Paediatric Infectious Diseases in 2006. The 9 month research period associated with this fellowship allowed her to develop her interest in paediatric infectious diseases and involved a couple of research projects (on TB Biomarkers and Interferon Gamma Release Assays) which resulted in a number of presentations and publications. During this time she was also involved in the setting up of a paediatric TB Europe Network to facilitate collaboration between Paediatricians caring for children with TB and improved care for children with TB in Europe. She completed the Gorgas Diploma Course in Clinical Tropical Medicine in Peru and was awarded a DTM&H in 2009.
She is a member of IMPRINT and INVAR networks.
Nesr G, Whittaker E, Bain BJ, 2023, Atypical lymphocytes - from chickenpox to monkey pox, American Journal of Hematology, ISSN:0361-8609, Pages:1-2
et al., 2023, Immunoglobulin, glucocorticoid, or combination therapy for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children: a propensity-weighted cohort study, The Lancet Rheumatology, ISSN:2665-9913
Bamford A, Whittaker E, 2023, Resurgence of group A streptococcal disease in children., Bmj, Vol:380
et al., 2023, Reasons for reductions in routine childhood immunisation uptake during the COVID-19 pandemic in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review, Plos Global Public Health, ISSN:2767-3375
Jayawardena-Thabrew H, Warris A, Ferreras-Antolin L, 2022, Nystatin is commonly prescribed as prophylaxis in children beyond the neonatal age, Medical Mycology, Vol:61, ISSN:1369-3786