University of St Andrews experts help to improve hospital safety

Tuesday 24 March 2015

University of St Andrews experts are part of a consortium of researchers set to benefit from a grant of £4.2 million, announced by Health Secretary Shona Robison today, to establish a new Scottish Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Institute (SHAIPI).

The announcement represents one of the largest single investments into research to tackle infection within healthcare settings in the UK in recent years. £1 million of the new funding will come to St Andrews.

Healthcare associated infections cost £183 million annually and occur in five per cent of the acute hospital population.

The new institute will be tasked with:

  • developing new interventions to prevent the spread of infection;
  • researching new ways of using existing antibiotics more effectively and efficiently;
  • developing new genome-based diagnostic tools to identify current and new emerging healthcare-associated infections (HAIs);
  • using data, which is collected routinely and held within Scotland more effectively by developing predictive models that can identify at risk patients who might be prone to HAIs or who might have increased mortality as a result of HAIs

Over the next five years the Scottish Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Institute will establish a virtual hub in which 19 co-investigators from the universities of St Andrews Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, and Strathclyde will work together with a range of health boards and strategic partners to look at new ways of dealing with the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and emerging HAIs.

On a visit to Glasgow University today Ms Robison said, “We are committed in our drive to tackling and reducing the spread of healthcare-associated infections. In recent years, we have made significant progress in making our hospitals safer – with cases of C.Diff and MRSA falling in 2014 to among their lowest levels on record.

“This significant investment towards research in this area will allow us to take the next step in our fight to bring down infection levels even further. This is one of the single biggest research grants awarded in recent years that aims to investigate ways to further reduce healthcare-associated infections.

“This is truly a national effort, bringing together expertise from a number of Scottish universities and Scotland’s NHS with a clear focus towards making our hospitals safer for all those patients who use it.”

The research work at the University of St Andrews is being headed by Professor Stephen Gillespie, the Sir James Black Professor of Medicine and Dr Matthew Holden, Reader in Bacterial Genomics and Evolution.

Professor Gillespie said, “The new SHAIPI consortium is an important development.  With this project we will be exploring new ways to use the latest technology to deliver more rapid diagnosis, and a safer health service to the people of Scotland.”

The St Andrews team will use genomics to describe the molecular epidemiology of HAI within Scotland focussing on two main areas: understanding the epidemiology of the predominant organisms causing HAI.

They will also develop a near real time sequencing platform that will support rapid molecular diagnostics, to identify and target infection transmission in a hospital setting.

Dr Holden said, “Genome sequencing will provide an unprecedented view of the genetic makeup of bacteria that cause disease in hospitals, and help us to target them more effectively and prevent their spread.”



Anti-microbial resistance is now a recognised threat and on the UK Government risk register.

Since 2007, cases of C.Diff have fallen by 81% in the 65 years and over age group and cases of MRSA have reduced by 88%.

The Scottish Infection Research Network (SIRN) was formed and funded by the Scottish Government in 2007 to facilitate, promote and deliver bench-to-bedside research to significantly contribute to the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections (HAIs).

Professor Gillespie is available for interviews. Contact Communications Office.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 467310 or [email protected].

Category Research

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