We fund infection research projects through our funding programmes, and support training and career development for researchers in the specialty.
We deliver infection research funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry and non-commercial organisations such as charities. We support the set up and delivery of this research in the NHS and in public health and social care settings. Our research infrastructure also supports research funded by these partners, offering expertise, collaborations and facilities.
We also provide opportunities for people who are affected by all types of infections and their families and carers to influence and take part in research.
The NIHR supports patients and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in health and care settings across England, advancing knowledge and improving care.
NIHR Clinical Research Network
The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) includes 30 specialty groups, who coordinate and support the delivery of high quality research by therapy area. Some of this research is funded by the NIHR, but most of it is funded by non-commercial organisations, such as charities or universities, and the life sciences industry.
The CRN provides researchers with the practical support they need to make research happen. It supports the set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings through our Study Support Service, with tailored offers of support for:
Supporting infection research
Clinical infection and its prevention, diagnosis and treatment influences all specialties, all age groups and all levels of care.
We support research studies in the following areas:
- Studies of the development and treatment of acute and chronic infectious diseases such as: gastroenteritis, hepatitis, HIV, influenza, meningitis, pneumonia, septicaemia, sexually transmitted infections, skin and soft tissue infections, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections
- Studies of the prevention, treatment and control of hospital-acquired infections such as: MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and CDD (Clostridium difficile disease)
- Prevention of infections by vaccination, particularly acute infectious diseases such as: childhood rashes, hepatitis, herpes viruses, influenza, meningitis and pneumonia
- Studies in microbiology laboratories of infections and clinical infectious diseases including development of new diagnostic tests.
The OVIVA study (Oral Vs IntraVenous Antibiotics in the treatment of bone and joint infection)
Effective treatment of bone and joint infections almost always requires the combination of surgery and a pronged course of antibiotics. For many years, we have believed that the antibiotics had to be given by injection into a vein (intravenously) rather than taken as tablets. With CRN support the OVIVA study recruited 1,054 participants at 27 centres across the UK to time and target. Participants were randomised to receive a six week course of either IV or oral antibiotics and followed up for one year to determine non-inferiority.
The results showed that there is no advantage of intravenous as compared to carefully selected oral antibiotic therapy in the treatment of bone and joint infection. This finding means that we will be able to reduce the length of hospital stay, avoid complications related to intravenous therapy and make significant cost savings for the NHS. OVIVA was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2019.
Urgent public health research
Urgent public health outbreaks can cause serious risk to human health. In the event of an urgent public health outbreak (eg COVID-19 pandemic), the CRN has emergency protocols to enable the rapid identification and set-up of relevant research studies, and to ensure that these studies are successfully conducted in an efficient and timely manner so that their findings can inform the on-going care of patients during the outbreak.
Infection specialty key achievements
- Continual increase in the recruitment of patients with, or at risk of, infections to studies and specifically to antimicrobial resistance research.
- Growth in the portfolio of infection studies including sexually transmitted infection, microbiology diagnostics and vaccines.
- Studies set up in readiness for activation in case of new pandemic infections - proved crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a breadth of experience and good performance across the CRN infection commercial portfolio – with the Infection Specialty over-performing in multiple studies from Phase II through to Phase IV. During 2019/20 the Specialty supported 31 commercial research studies, recruiting more than 400 participants into them.
Who we are
As well as providing research delivery staff, we also bring together highly engaged NHS consultants and clinical academics from top UK universities, bringing both clinical and academic expertise to your research. Our experts in the CRN Infection Specialty Group can advise on delivering your infection study in the NHS and in particular geographic regions.
We have leads in key areas such as antimicrobials, HIV and vaccines who provide an operational link between the life sciences industry, the NIHR and researchers. We can recommend experts to provide advice in most sub-specialist areas, for example, early phase vaccine development, antifungals and biofilms.
CRN Infection Specialty is jointly led by Dr Andrew Ustianowski and Professor William Hope as National Specialty Leads. See our expert tab for their biographies.
The National Specialty leads are supported by Dr Ann Sullivan, in the role of Deputy National Specialty Lead and local specialty leads in each of the 15 NIHR Local Clinical Research Networks.
Our collaborators and stakeholders
ISARIC's purpose is to prevent illness and deaths from infectious disease outbreaks. They are a global federation of clinical research networks, providing a proficient, coordinated, and agile research response to outbreak-prone infectious diseases. Professor Calum Semple, Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine is a co-opted member and ISARIC representative in the National Specialty Group.
Medical Research Council
The Medical Research Council (MRC) improves human health through world-class medical research. The MRC fund research across the biomedical spectrum, from fundamental lab-based science to clinical trials, and in all major disease areas. Their research has resulted in life-changing discoveries for over a hundred years. Sarah Pett, Professor of Infectious Disease is a co-opted member and MRC representative in the National Specialty Group.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is the nation’s public health body focused on health protection and security and is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care. The agency builds on the legacy of Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to help keep the nation safe. UKHSA operates as an integral part of the public health system and the national security infrastructure, utilising state-of-the-art technologies and ground-breaking capabilities in data analytics and genomic surveillance to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) and future threats locally, nationally and globally.
Our funding programmes fund high quality research in infection that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. We also provide career development funding awards for infection researchers - see the careers tab for more information.
Our funding programmes
Our commissioned research programmes often seek research proposals on infection. Most of our funding programmes also run funding calls open to research proposals on any topic (researcher-led calls), including research proposals in infection.
NIHR themed calls are funding opportunities focusing on a particular research topic, in which all our funding programmes participate. We have previously held a themed call on antimicrobial resistance (2013) and a themed call on pandemic flu (2011).
Got an idea for research in infection? The NIHR Research Support Service can help you turn it into a funding application, offering advice on research design, research methods, identifying funding sources, and involving patients and the public.
Funding COVID-19 research
In 2020 we held a number of funding calls for research into COVID-19, to inform national policy and enable new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to be developed and tested.
Our funding is supporting new treatments and vaccines, helping to understand the spread of coronavirus and its effect on different ethnic groups, and understand the long-term consequences of infection.
Our research units
NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between universities and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and act as centres of excellence in multidisciplinary health protection research in England.
The following HPRUs undertake research in infection:
- NIHR HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at University College London
- NIHR HPRU in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London
- NIHR HPRU in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at University of Liverpool
- NIHR HPRU in Gastrointestinal Infections at University of Liverpool
- NIHR HPRU in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial College London
- NIHR HPRU in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance at University of Oxford
- NIHR HPRU in Vaccines and Immunisation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- NIHR HPRU in Respiratory Infections at Imperial College London
Our portfolio of infection research
You can search and view all the infection research we’ve funded on NIHR Funding and Awards.
In addition, a number of our research programmes publish comprehensive accounts of our infection research in the NIHR Journals Library.
The NIHR attracts, trains and supports the best researchers in infection to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future.
Our investment in people sustains excellent research capacity and expertise throughout clinical and non-clinical academic career pathways and provides high quality learning and development opportunities for the delivery workforce in our infrastructure.
Funding infection research careers
The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development.
There is a wide range of NIHR training and career development awards available at different career stages, from pre-doctoral through to Research Professorships. These awards comprise both personal awards, which can be applied for directly with the NIHR, and institutional awards which should be applied for through the host institution.
Supporting the infection delivery workforce
Research is the innovation that brings better healthcare and treatments to patients in the NHS and it is part of the NIHR’s role to ensure the talent pool of research active clinicians continues to thrive. The Infection Specialty Group of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) is looking at ways in which they can support new and experienced consultants to discover research in a clinical setting.
Professor Jonathan Ross describes how you could get started with NIHR help
The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the world-class NIHR infrastructure.
This national research infrastructure is available to use by UKRI, research charities and the life sciences industry as well as NIHR researchers.
NIHR Biomedical Research Centres
NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) are collaborations between world-leading universities and NHS organisations that bring together academics and clinicians to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.
The following BRCs undertake research in infection:
- NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Great Ormond Street Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Guy's and St Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre
- NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre
NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives
NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic tests.
The following MICs undertake research in infection:
- NIHR Community Healthcare MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative
- NIHR Leeds in Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative
NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative
The NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC) has been set up to deliver high quality data in key therapeutic areas and make NHS clinical data more readily available to researchers, industry and the NHS community.
NIHR Clinical Research Network
The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings. Find out more on the delivery tab.
The NIHR funds and supports world-class experts in infection.
In addition, our experts in the NIHR Clinical Research Network (National Specialty Leads) can advise on delivering your infection study in the NHS or in other health and social care settings.
National Specialty Lead
The CRN Infection Specialty is jointly led by Dr Andrew Ustianowski and Professor William Hope as National Specialty Leads.
Dr Ustianowski is currently the Clinical Lead for the NIHR COVID Vaccine Research programme.
He is Consultant in infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the Regional Infectious Diseases Unit at North Manchester General Hospital and the Deputy Clinical Director in Greater Manchester Clinical Research Network.
Professor Hope is the Director for the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research at the University of Liverpool and Dame Sally Davies Chair of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Research.
The NIHR Research Professorship is the flagship personal funding award for the NIHR. The scheme funds research leaders of the future to promote effective translation of research.
Dr Graham Cooke’s research is aiming to accelerate the elimination of Hepatitis C in the UK. His programme will bring new methods of viral sequencing into the clinic, combined with detailed clinical study of recent infections.
Prof Anthony Gordon’s research programme aims to develop a personalised medicine strategy for patients with sepsis to allow treatment of patients as individuals.
We engage with and involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research in infection.
Have your say in research
We involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in our national research funding and support activities, including in infection research.
The researchers we fund also involve patients in planning and delivering their infection research.
Involvement opportunities across the NIHR
Our Local Clinical Research Networks involve people in infection research taking place in your local area.
The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections runs a programme of events to get feedback on their upcoming research with members of the public.
The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections has several opportunities to get involved in research, from joining the Advisory Panel to help develop our research strategy, to helping make sure the research is reported in understandable ways.
The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Respiratory Infections strives to ensure that the patient and public voice impacts our research priorities, strategies, projects and functions. Therefore, they have recruited a panel of patients and members of the public to help.
Take part in research
Developing a new approach to Antimicrobial Resistance research in the UK
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a widely recognised problem across the world. The World Health Organisation has declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
Working with key partners, the NIHR is developing a project to assess the applicability of AMR platform studies in the UK.
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