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Biological Sciences
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Dr Sandra A Wilks BSc (Hons), PhD, FRSB

Associate Professor

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Dr Sandra Wilks joined the microbiology group in 2000 as a postdoctoral research fellow. Since then she has worked on a number of research projects involving the detection of bacteria in complex environments and, in particular, biofilms.

Since being awarded an IfLS Knowledge Mobilisation Senior Research Fellowship in Healthcare Technologies in 2013, she has been working at the interface of Biological Sciences and Health Sciences.

In 2018, she was made an interdisciplinary lecturer and is leading a programme of work related to catheter-associated biofilms and contamination of nasogastric feeding tubes.

Interdisciplinary working is enabling evidence-based research that can make a real impact on people's lives.

Career History

2020 - present: Director of Programmes Health (PGT programmes), School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.

2018 - present: Lecturer (Health Sciences & Biological Sciences), University of Southampton, UK.

2013 - 2018: IfLS Knowledge Mobilisation Senior Research Fellow in Healthcare Technologies, University of Southampton, UK.

2007 - 2013: Senior Research Fellow (Biological Sciences), University of Southampton, UK.

1998 - 2007: Research Fellow (Biological Sciences), University of Southampton, UK.


Academic Qualifications

1994-1998: PhD Microbial Ecology "The Feeding Behaviour of the Marine Ciliate, Euplotes mutabilis". University of Southampton, UK.
1990-1994: BSc Hons Applied Biology. Brunel University London, UK.

The Role of Biofilms in Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections

New Pathways to Health: Biofilms

Research interests

Now leading a collaborative programme of work with Health Sciences, Sandra is interested in the detection, understanding and control of biofilms on medical devices and within the clinical environment. With a main focus on urinary catheter contamination, she is working on several projects involved with improving anti-biofilm strategies.

Current and past research interests include:

  • Understanding and preventing urinary catheter-associated biofilms.
  • The impact of biofilms in nasogastric feeding tubes and implication for clinical practice.
  • Biofilms in the environment, built environment and clinical practice.
  • Development of novel molecular and microscopy-based methods for the detection of specific microbial pathogens in complex communities.
  • Development of new viability models for the detection of sublethally damaged pathogens.
  • Survival of sublethally damaged pathogens in drinking water systems e.g. E. coli O157, Legionella pneumophila, spore-forming species.
  • Survival of sublethally damaged pathogens in human and animal wastes recycled to agricultural land, e.g. E. coli O157, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Cryptosporidium. 

PhD Supervision

Michelle Baker-Moffatt: Examining biofilm development within fine-bore nasogastric tubes used by adults and exploring the nursing perspective of tube management. Health Sciences Clinical Academic Programme.

N. Malissa Rahimi: The role of biofilms in the contamination of urinary catheters. Commonwealth Fund.

Christopher Winnard: Clinical and laboratory approaches to investigating the development of biofilms in neonatal nasogastric tubes: Implications for morbidity and mortality. Institute for Life Sciences/ Biological Sciences/Health Sciences.

Fergus Watson: The prevalence and relevance of hospital biofilms and their inactivation by hydrogen peroxide vapour technology. The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

Research Group

Bladder and Bowel

Research theme

Fundamental Care

Research project(s)

SecurEau – Security and decontamination of drinking water distribution systems following a deliberate contamination event.

This work aims to design novel methodologies for the detection of low levels of contaminants, model the distribution of contaminants throughout a network and identify the point of origin, develop the use of sensors for surveillance and provide decontamination protocols for polluted networks and installations, including the neutralisation of contaminated water and residues.

Prevention and minimisation of biofilms on urinary catheters and equipment

Biofilm development on urinary catheters is a major healthcare issue, leading to infection and blockage. Here we are using advanced microscopy and viability techniques to improve our understanding of biofilm development and persistence on urinary catheters.

Development of novel methods to assess the viability and infectivity of pathogens in biofilms found in drinking water supply systems.

Using novel methods, the infectivity of sub-lethally stressed bacterial pathogens such as those in drinking water biofilms is being assessed and monitored.

Development and Clinical trial of a mixed (Multi/single-use) catheter management package for users of Intermittent Catheters - MultICath

This is a randomised controlled trial in which participants must be willing to use one of two intermittent catheterisation strategies which will be randomly allocated by computer.

Module coordinator

BIOL2038 Environmental Microbiology
BIOL2044 Medical Microbiology
BIOL3057 Biofilms & Microbial Communities


NPCG3020 Foundations of Nursing Practice
PC Dip Nursing Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing


Director of Programmes Health (PGT programmes), School of Health Sciences

University of Southampton

Assistant Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit
Research fellow representative on B85 Life Sciences Health & Safety Committee
Academic representative for Highfield Campus on GM & Biosafety Committee
Member of the Equality and Diversity Committee for Biological Sciences
Member of Senate

Research Group Memberships

Institute for Life Sciences
Surface Technology
Decontamination & Antimicrobial Resistance
Ageing & Lifelong Health
Computationally Intensive Imaging
Global Security

Sandra is working with a number of industry partners to test new anti-biofilm strategies for medical devices. With successful funding from Innovate UK and the SBRI, work is ongoing to help companies develop their products and commercialise.


SBRI development award - a simple cleaning method for intermittent catheters

NAMRIP/EPSRC pump priming award - use of StarStream for surgical hand disinfection

NAMRIP/EPSRC pump priming award - use of advanced imaging techniques to understand crystalline biofilms in urinary catheters

Dr Sandra A Wilks
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 85/4041

Dr Sandra A Wilks's personal home page
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