Infectious diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Despite improvements in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, they remain a leading cause of death and disability in many countries. New infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, can spread rapidly with serious global consequences.
Our Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit (IDEU) focuses on defining the global distribution of specific infectious diseases, investigating the processes which lead to infections, defining the best methods of disease prevention including vaccination, assessing antimicrobial treatments for major pathogens and the challenges of antimicrobial resistance, and the diseases they cause, and defining associations between communicable and non-communicable diseases.
IDEU projects include working with researchers in Uganda to investigate concurrent health conditions associated with the parasitic infection, schistosomiasis. The Invasive Respiratory Infection Surveillance (IRIS) Initiative collects data on four bacterial pathogens that cause life-threatening infections like pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia.
In Oxford Population Health, we have been applying our expertise in large randomised trials to COVID-19. Since March 2020, we have been leading the RECOVERY trial in partnership with the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Drawing on our experience of streamlining clinical trials, we delivered three results that changed clinical practice globally within 100 days.
Our perinatal team is improving the care and treatment of babies and pregnant women directly and indirectly affected by COVID-19. Our Wolfson Laboratory team established the laboratory process for the biggest of the Lighthouse laboratories, and our ethics expertise made a critical contribution to the development and introduction of mobile phone applications. Our contribution to the COVID-19 response is described in our COVID-19 report, 'Creating clarity in a time of uncertainty'.
Our work on the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has included investigating the impact of the pandemic on hospital admission rates and deaths from common and severe childhood infections, including measles, meningitis, and mumps. We have also been monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions for acute coronary syndromes and bowel cancer.
The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) has enabled research into infections that are associated with non-communicable diseases such as cancer. For example, data from the CKB were used to demonstrate that reducing chronic infections from the bacterium Helicobacter pylori would be a key strategy for preventing stomach cancer.
Around 10 million deaths are predicted to occur annually by 2050 from antimicrobial resistance. We are developing artificial intelligence techniques to predict which patients are most at risk of antibiotic resistance, and have assessed the contribution that can be made by economists.