SOUTHAMPTON scientists are appealing for volunteers to take part in a new study that could lead to a break-through in whooping cough bacteria.

Participants will receive a £1,000 reimbursement if they take part in the 16 week trial.

As part of the scheme those taking part will receive two doses of live whooping cough bacteria via the nose and both them and their bedroom partner will receive antibiotics on day 14 and week 16 of the study to stop the infection leading to whooping cough disease.

If symptoms start to develop before 14 days they will get the antibiotic treatment sooner.

Scientists hope to find out if the bacteria that causes whooping cough can be transmitted to a partner by someone who is carrying the infection but has no symptoms.

It comes as Southampton doctors lead a European study into whether whooping cough bacteria can be passed on to a bedroom partner.

It is the second part of a £2.3 million project to develop a better vaccine to protect against the condition following a drop in the effectiveness of the current vaccine, which is offered to all babies in the UK but does not provide lifelong protection.

The research team at University Hospital Southampton, led by Professor Robert Read, have already discovered a person can live with the bacteria without becoming unwell, meaning they could unknowingly transmit the infection.

Prof Read, who is director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said: “Our work in this area has already shown us this bacterium can exist silently in the noses and throats of healthy people which we now know is why we are seeing outbreaks of whooping cough throughout the world.

“The result of this is that serious disease is occurring in those people who are not vaccinated or who had their vaccines a long time ago so we are in desperate need of a more effective vaccine.”

Prof Read said the next stage is to find out whether or not the infection can then be passed to their bedroom partner without them developing obvious symptoms.

Whooping cough is a highly-contagious bacterial infection which causes repeated coughing that can last for two to three months or more and affects around 16 million people every year worldwide, causing around 200,000 preventable deaths in children.

To take part, call 023 8120 4989 or email UHS.recruitmentCRF@nhs.net.