NUI Galway Research Features Significantly in ‘Picture of Health 2012’

Dec 06 2012 Posted: 11:55 GMT

NUI Galway research features significantly in the Health Research Board’s ‘Picture of Health 2012’ publication which will be launched in Dublin today. The highlighted research from NUI Galway includes work on adult stem cells, diabetes in pregnancy, communicating with GPs diabetic foot disease.

The annual Picture of Health publication highlights, in non-technical language, recent and exciting developments arising from Irish health research funded by the Health Research Board. Research featured includes projects that seek to improve patient care, search for better treatments and innovate in health policy and practice.

At the launch, Dr Akke Vellinga, a senior lecturer in primary care and lecturer in bacteriology at NUI Galway, willspeak about her work on antibiotics. TheHealth Research Board-funded study in the west of Ireland shows that many antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately, and highlights a link between the prescription of antibiotics and an increased risk of antibiotic resistance.

“By using antibiotics we make them gradually less useful,” says Dr Vellinga. “The antibiotics end up in the environment and the bacterial community adapts by developing resistance.”

The study at NUI Galway looked at databases on prescribing practices and antibiotic resistance risk and found a direct link between the amount of antibiotics prescribed and the chance that an individual patient would be diagnosed with a resistant E.coli infection.

The researchers also found that while they could identify bacteria in 20 per cent of samples from patients with urinary tract infections, more than 50 per cent of the patients were prescribed antibiotics. And of those, only 37 per cent were prescribed the recommended treatment.   

In addition, the risks of being diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection shot up if a patient had more than one course of antibiotics: having two or more rounds of the medication could increase the risk of resistance by more than six-fold.

NUI Galway’s Vice President for Research, Professor Terry Smith, said: “The NUI Galway research highlighted in the report represents concrete examples of the innovative thinking our researchers are applying to impact positively on people’s health and wellbeing with the ultimate aim of improving health outcomes and contributing to a world-class health service in Ireland.”

Other Health Research Board funded research at NUI Galway which is featured in ‘A Picture of Health 2012’ includes the following:

  • Professor Fidelma Dunne and Dr Geraldine Gaffney headed a major study called Atlantic Diabetes in Pregnancy (DIP) to measure the incidence and outcomes of diabetes in pregnancy in the west and north-west of Ireland. The research led to improved pregnancy outcomes for women with diabetes in the west of Ireland.
  • Dr Claire Welford investigated the question as to whether older people in residential care have autonomy. Her research led to information for a resource pack and tool kit for all nursing homes in Ireland.
  • A project looking at interacting with GPs asked migrants and health professionals about the ideal ways to break down communication barriers in consultations. The outcomes informed guidelines on interpreting needs of migrants in GP consultations and Ireland leading a €2.9 million EU project in this field.
  • Dr Róisín Dwyer collaborated with the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at Galway and the Mayo Clinic in the US to look at the possibility of using adult stem cells to fight tumours. The work opened up the potential for developing a new therapeutic delivery system and won an award from the Irish Cancer Society.
  • A new study measured, for the first time, the levels of risk of diabetic foot disease among patients in a community setting. Dr Sean Dinneen’s work identified a potential link between a standard blood test and diabetic foot risk.
  • A study led by Dr Thomas Ritter sounded a note of caution for treatments that require many infusions of stem cells in the same patient. The research highlights that the immune system could get wise to ‘foreign’ stem cells over time and potentially eliminates them.
  • The Irish Primary Care Research Network, a collaboration between the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research, the Irish College of General Practitioners and the WestRen Research network, led by the discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway, seeks to assess and provide comparative clinical data that enable health professionals to enhance the quality of care they provide to their patients. The work already has provided decision-support tools to help diagnosis and prescribing in primary care.

Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB says: “The government’s continued investment in research must be recognised as a vital step to encourage innovation and help reinvigorate the economy. Researchers must see this investment as a vote of confidence in their ability to deliver change and embrace the opportunity to continue to demonstrate that the work that they do has real impact.

In the past few years, the HRB has taken a strategic decision to focus our funding on research that has a positive impact on people’s health, patient care and the health service. The outcomes highlighted in this report show the difference our funded researchers are making in these areas.”


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