Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Letter from Professor A R M Coates

  The main issues which I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee, are as follows:

    1.   Research: Multidisciplinary teams in infection research should include clinical academic bacteriologists and virologists. Clinical academic bacteriologists and virologists have a rigorous training in all aspects of human infection. In addition, their corresponding NHS disciplines (Medical Microbiology and Virology) supply laboratory diagnosis, clinical advice and infection control in most UK hospitals. A multidisciplinary team which includes such skills, would be optimally balanced to benefit basic science and clinical medicine research. Examples of the involvement of academic clinical bacteriologists in research, include the discoveries of penicillin and Helicobacter pylori which is associated with stomach ulcers and cancer.

    2.   Teaching of medical students: Such teaching must include the diagnosis of clinical infection, and the use of antibiotics and vaccines. In the past, it was thought that clinical infections would be solved by the use of antibiotics and vaccines. Some universities virtually eradicated teaching of the diagnosis of clinical infection and the use of antibiotics and vaccines from their undergraduate curricula. I served as an external examiner to one such University. Other universities have integrated clinical infection into systems, in such a way that key items of learning have been lost. However, the current global epidemics of HIV, antibiotic resistant bacteria, tuberculosis and malaria have proven that more emphasis must be placed on the teaching of clinical infection.

    3.   Training of research doctors: Training of clinical academic bacteriologists and virologists must include earmarked Specialist Registrar and Clinical Scientist level Research Fellowships. I helped to initiate the current SpR Research Training Fellowships which the MRC runs each year, in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Pathologists. I sit on the MRC panel which allocates these fellowships and have been impressed by the quality of the candidates. I am in discussion with the MRC and the Royal Colleges about setting up a Clinical Scientist Scheme in Clinical Infection. One suggestion is that the PHLS (now within HPA) research money could help to support Clinical Scientist Fellowships in clinical infection.

Professor A R M Coates

Chairman of Association of Academic Clinical Bacteriologists & Virologists

March 2003

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