Research ‘unique to Norwich’ aims to reduce catheter infections

A research project ‘unique to Norwich’ is underway that aims to reduce infection risk for patients with a chronic respiratory condition.

Experts from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Quadram Institute Bioscience are working together to find out why patients with pleural disease develop infections from indwelling pleural catheters (IPC).

The project has received Quadram Institute Clinical Seedcorn funding and aims to improve understanding and help design an infection resistant catheter in the future.

Prof Eleanor Mishra, NNUH Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor, is leading the research with academic fellow Dr Dheeraj Sethi and Prof Mark Webber at Quadram Institute Bioscience, who specialises in antibiotic resistance and bacterial biofilms.

Patients with pleural conditions can get a build-up of fluid around the lungs that causes breathing problems. The insertion of an IPC allows a patient to drain fluid around the lungs themselves from home. Around 300 patients are seen in the pleural clinic at NNUH every year.

Prof Mishra said: “One in 20 patients can develop an infection with their catheter, which can be difficult to treat. We want to understand how infections can happen. We know biofilms can form on the catheter over time and layers of bacteria that are protected from antibiotics.”

“We are collecting old IPCs to see what is growing on them in the lab. We cannot do it without the expertise at the Quadram Institute and their particular expertise in biofilms and infections. It is unique to Norwich and Norfolk by bringing my expertise in pleural disease and their interest in infections.”

Prof Webber added: “We are very happy to be part of this collaboration with our colleagues in NNUH. Combining our expertise on bacterial behaviour with clinical knowledge allows us to develop relevant models we can use to study how to reduce the chances of infection in a vulnerable group of patients allowing us to translate our academic work into real world application.”

Prof Mishra is one of eight NNUH Consultants who have been awarded Clinical Associate Professorship posts in translational and clinical medicine following funding from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School and NNUH. These appointments will expand growing research themes in collaboration with our partners on the Norwich Research Park and contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate education.

She said: “It will make a huge difference, not just having the time to do more research, but there is also a group of us who are supporting each other and moving forward together. I think we can share resources and give each other feedback.”

Prof Mishra led the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy) study at NNUH, which led to improvements in patient outcomes in just a few short months by using some existing drugs to treat patients with severe symptoms on Covid-19.