The University of Liverpool has secured £2 million from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to improve the management of devastating brain infections in low and middle income countries.

The three-year funding will establish a new NIHR Global Health Research Group on Brains Infections, which will be led by Professor Tom Solomon at the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, in partnership with seven leading research organisations.

Acute brain infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis, are a major cause of death and disability globally. There is relatively little global research expertise in tackling them. For many brain infections appropriate therapies exist, but doctors fail to diagnose, and thus treat them properly.

To tackle this, the new Global Health Research Group will link Liverpool, with its outstanding reputation in brain infections research, to the internationally renowned Warwick Centre for Applied Health Research and Delivery, and to leading research institutes in Malawi, India and Brazil. The overall aim is to improve the diagnosis of acute brain infections in adults and children in these countries, to guide treatment and improve outcomes.

Professor Solomon said: “It is a very exciting time to be working in this area. We believe by combining the most sophisticated molecular technologies to improve diagnosis, with some relatively simple changes in patient care we can have a marked impact on the management of patients with devastating brain infections, like meningitis and encephalitis.”

Dr Ava Easton of the Encephalitis Society, who is leading the Patient and Public Involvement Panel for the programme said: The Global Health Research Group on Brain Infections is such an exciting project. Infections continue to pose a significant public health risk. Every year we see lives and families devastated, and left to deal with the often left life-long consequences. Global collaborations like this bring together experts from their respective countries and I am very pleased to have been asked to drive the patient and public involvement element of the project.”

Professor Ravi Vasanthapuram Senior Professor and former Registrar at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bangalore India said: “This new programme allows us to share our experiences with colleagues in Malawi and Brazil, through South-South partnerships, and devise new ways of tackling the problems common to all lower and middle income countries.”

An important part of this work is to provide training, guidance and support to the clinical teams in Low Income countries to undertake research in this severely neglected yet highly devastating area. Here The Global Health Network (www.TheGlobalHealthNetwork.org) will be delivering training and enabling groups around the world who are working on Brain Infection to share knowledge and best practice. Professor Trudie Lang from the University of Oxford leads this element of the programme “we are delighted to be involved in this critical work. We aim to ensure that experts from wealthy countries share their methods and experience with those in low resource region as we know this will make gathering this life-saving data faster, easier and better. We also hope to encourage research places who have never conducted studies before by supporting and training them to do so, this way the evidence can be generated through this Global Health Research Group that can truly change outcomes for these patients”

Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Liverpool added “This award is hugely significant. It reflects the University of Liverpool’s international reputation in infection research and supports our long-standing collaborations with other leading researchers in India, Africa, and Brazil. A truly global partnership of outstanding researchers with the support of NIHR will undoubtedly have a major impact on the lives of people affected by these devastating conditions.”

A launch meeting for the Global Health Research Group was held on 19-20 June at the University of Liverpool in London, which brought together representatives from all partner institutions.

The consortium partners include Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK); Centre for Applied Health Research and Delivery, University of Warwick (UK); College of Medicine (Malawi); Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme (Malawi); National Institute for Mental Health & Neuroscience (India); Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Brazil) and Christian Medical College Vellore (India).

For more information about the research programme please visit: https://braininfectionsglobal.tghn.org

For more information on the NIHR awards please visit:

https://www.nihr.ac.uk/news/nihr-awards-further-funding-to-boost-global-health-research/8821

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