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Modernising Medical Microbiology is working to find out more about bacteria and viruses in order to control and better manage them, ultimately improving people’s health. Using new technologies for reading the genetic code of microbes and in electronic information management, their work focuses on how infectious diseases are diagnosed, how infection is passed on, how we treat infections and how best to identify and control new outbreaks of infectious diseases.

For individuals, this will mean understanding by which bug(s) an infection is caused and what characteristics that organism has; therefore allowing the patient to rapidly receive the right treatment.

An example of applying these techniques in hospitals and the community would be looking at the genetic code of the same bug type from different patients; this will tell us where infections were picked up from or if an outbreak is starting.

The group are studying bugs that are the main causes of infections that people get when in hospital: Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and Norovirus. In addition, the consortium is also conducting translational research for the diagnosis and treatment of other pathogens including, Tuberculosis (TB), Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) and Neisseria gonorrheae.

MMM are also using computer databases to investigate patterns of infectious disease among patients attending Oxfordshire hospitals and GPs.

In order to deliver research projects that are more relevant to patients, MMM established a 150-member strong patient and public group. As well as face to face meetings, there is a blend of interactions with researchers and working together in smaller groups to input to ongoing research and generate public-focused ideas, priorities and materials.

The theme’s work to investigate bugs that cause infectious disease, while tracking infection sources and movement in hospitals, has led to their being at the forefront of a joint national project with other expert groups.

MMM are developing a solution for typing and identification of bugs, which will enable us to deliver faster, cheaper and more accurate diagnosis and treatment identification for patients. Furthermore, the data will also allow us to track and monitor infectious diseases. This novel approach is a replacement technology for the current, mostly manual, processes, enabling us to identify species, predict antibiotic resistance and determine virulence factors.

Consequently, this research is likely to transform routine diagnosis, management and control of infectious disease in the coming years. The team’s work will also allow us to minimise the over-use of precious antibiotics. In turn this will reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance and multi-resistance of bugs, reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile infections and provide cost savings in the NHS.