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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life SciencesHealth & Medicine

Infectious Disease

Infectious disease remains a major challenge around the globe affecting millions of people. Our researchers are taking pre-clinical discoveries and translating them into meaningful treatments, diagnostics and drugs, which are having a positive effect on people’s lives.

Dissection of the host-pathogen interaction in human tuberculosis using a bioengineered 3-dimensional model

Interdisciplinary scientists from Life Sciences are finding new methods to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases. Teams which include engineers, medics, biologists, computer scientists and immunologists are working together to tackle some of the world’s most devastating diseases. With an international reputation for bench to bedside results our basic scientific discoveries are making their way into novel treatments and are positively impacting on patients’ lives.

Diseases currently under study include meningitis, tuberculosis, whooping cough, influenza, hepatitis C and hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and C.difficile. For example, our researchers have made significant discoveries in how the body’s immune system recognises different viruses including global pathogens such as Zika, dengue and Hepatitis C viruses. The research could change the way these viruses, which affect millions of people around the world, are targeted with vaccines.

Our researchers are also tackling antimicrobial resistance, one of the world’s biggest medical challenges. Engineers from Life Sciences are working with hospital medics on various projects.  From creating new technology that cleans equipment more effectively to using copper to kill superbugs to monitoring human behaviour in a clinical setting, our teams are finding novel ways to reduce the use of antibiotics.


Related Staff Member

Image credit: Prof Paul Elkington

Image Credit: Prof Paul Elkington

Dissection of the host-pathogen interaction in human tuberculosis using a bioengineered 3-dimensional model.   eLife 2017;6:e21283 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.21283

Please see a selection of postgraduate courses related to this subject area below. 

For the full range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Southampton, please visit our courses webpages

MSc Global Health

Comprehensive training on the principles, methods & research skills to understand, interpret & solve critical global health challenges.

MSc Health Psychology

Explore how psychological knowledge can improve wellbeing and manage chronic illness.  

MSc Genomic Medicine

This MSc includes study of the genomics and informatics of rare and common diseases, cancer and infectious diseases, which can be applied to clinical practice and medical research

MSc Health Sciences

This flexible MSc degree programme can be tailored to individual ambitions and professional interests.

MSc Advanced Clinical Practice (Critical Care)

The MSc Advanced Clinical Practice (Critical Care) is designed for experienced critical care practitioners who are seeking to deepen their underpinning knowledge and understanding in the field of critical care.

MSc Health Sciences

Masters in Health Sciences - Amputation & Prosthetic Rehabilitation is a flexible programme of higher level study that is suitable for both clinicians and non-clinicians

Photo of Artur Kirjakulov
I believe that interdisciplinary research it the most important source of inventions, as it allows to solve problems whose solutions are far beyond the scope of a single discipline.
Artur KirjakulovPhD in Infection, Inflammation & Immunity, 1st year

The Human Challenge

Medical experts from Life Sciences are conducting pioneering studies to improve treatments for meningitis and whooping cough.

With major funding from the Medical Research Council and the European Union Horizon 20:20 programme we are conducting the world’s first inhuman study that is testing a genetically modified bacteria that could protect against the bacterial species responsible for causing meningococcal meningitis. Our teams have enhanced the bacteria which resides in the nose with a ‘sticky’ surface protein from N.meningitidis. This increases the bacteria’s ability to generate a strong immune response that protects against meningitis-causing bacteria.

Whooping cough, which is also known as also known as pertussis, effects around 16 million people every year worldwide, particularly in developing countries, and causes around 200,000 preventable deaths in children. Although a vaccine is offered to all babies in the UK – where 18 have died as a result of the infection since 2012 – it does not offer lifelong protection and is much less effective than it was 15 years ago.

Our clinicians have completed phase 1 of a landmark study that involves inoculating healthy volunteers with nose drops containing B. pertussis and monitoring their immune responses before giving them an antibiotic to clear the infection. Thirty people have taken part in the Southampton arm of the study and have shown an immune response. Our scientists are now analysing the results with a view of developing a new vaccine to give lasting protection against the condition.

Contact:  Professor Robert Read

NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre

Diagnosing influenza early

Influenza – commonly known as the ‘flu’ – affects millions of people every year with many people requiring hospitalisation. Our clinician scientists have trialled a novel rapid diagnostic test in the hospital setting, which can rapidly diagnose influenza and other viral infections in patients rather than waiting several days for the results of standard laboratory tests.

As results can be obtained in less than 1 hour decisions about antibiotics, influenza antivirals and isolation facility use (side rooms) can be made accurately in real time rather than using guess work. This leads to less unnecessary antibiotics use which in turn reduces the risk of antimicrobial resistance. This testing strategy also reduces the time patient spend in hospital, improves the use of influenza antivirals and improves the use of isolation facilities facilitating better patient flow though acute areas in hospital during the influenza season.

Studies in other patient groups and in other inflections are underway.

Contact:  Dr Tristan Clark

The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 5 (5), 401-411

3D artificial lung to combat TB

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases, killing more people each year than any other infection  The World Health Organization has warned that countries are not doing enough to fight the condition and drug-resistant TB remains a global public health crisis.

Researchers from Life Sciences which include infection scientists, engineers, imaging experts and bioinformaticians have developed an artificial lung environment to study TB infection in microscopic detail. They have used an electrostatic encapsulation technique to make tiny 3D spheres, within which human cells are infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria to generate conditions that more closely reflect events in patients. The model allows our researchers to further investigate what happens in a human body when TB develops, with a long term aim of identifying new antibiotic treatments and vaccines to control the global pandemic. 

Contact: Professor Paul Elkington

Engineering and clinical science combine to fight tuberculosis




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