Clinical Microbiology

The RCSI Department of Clinical Microbiology was established in 1965 with the appointment of Professor Ellen C. Moorhouse. Professor Moorhouse (1928-2004) was the first female Clinical Sciences Professor appointed in RCSI and her portrait is displayed in the St. Stephens Green Campus, where she taught countless generations of healthcare professionals. The Ellen Moorhouse prize in clinical microbiology is awarded annually to an undergraduate medical student by competition.

The department is located in the, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Smurfit Building, on the Beaumont Hospital campus. ‘Infection and Host Response’ is the theme of the department’s activities with departmental members actively involved in teaching, research, public engagement and advocacy, in addition to national health policy and health services leadership roles.

Our vision is to improve health and healthcare by preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) and by effectively diagnosing and treating bacterial infections, for better health outcomes.

Our goal is to support the battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at all levels from; promoting best clinical practice, sharing new developments, raising awareness of AMR and through impactful research in infection, immunology and medical education. Our dynamic team includes clinicians, other healthcare professionals and scientists. We are committed to teaching, research, patient-care and public service activities that underpin this goal.

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The department teaches in the School of Medicine, across all the RCSI teaching sites in Dublin, Bahrain and Perdana, as well as delivering courses in the Schools of Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Postgraduate Nursing in Dublin. The department also runs the ‘Safe Patient Care Course, Foundations in Infection Prevention and Control’ with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which is aimed at frontline healthcare workers who are not infection prevention and control specialists.

The Department is at the forefront of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) approaches for students, which include podcasts, online quizzes, and interactive in-class and online teaching materials. We aim to promote patient-centred care using e-learning modalities focusing on the pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of important infections and to promote excellence in antimicrobial stewardship using online cases targeting correct decision making for the appropriate choice of empiric antimicrobials. We engage with students on important patient-centred topics in real-time through our departmental Instagram account.

In addition, departmental members participate in postgraduate and public education on research integrity, infection control, sepsis, antibiotics and antibiotic resistant organisms.

Infection and host response

We are committed to improving patient care through our research. Our strengths in achieving this are our collaborative approach and our combined expertise, which includes basic scientists, clinician scientists and clinical microbiologists.

We investigate and identify novel ways to prevent and treat healthcare-associated infections (HCAI).  This is important as HCAI are increasingly caused by antibiotic-resistant (AMR) bacteria, or ‘superbugs’ like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridiodes difficile and Carbapenamase-producing Enterobacterales (CPE). We also investigate chronic infections involving bacterial biofilms such as device-related infections and infections in the setting of cystic fibrosis and diabetes.

Our multidisciplinary translational research programme addresses the societal challenge of infection and AMR covering surveillance, epidemiology, infection prevention and control as well as pathogenic mechanisms of infection. These studies underpin the advancement of innovative healthcare solutions including novel decontamination methods, better diagnostic tools and new medicines and interventions. In addition, our research also informs healthcare policy to shape clinical practices leading to improved patient safety and clinical outcomes.

Departmental staff participate in a variety of public engagement and media events to highlight the importance of HCAIs, AMR prevention and sepsis management. Informed by our research and clinical activities, we contribute significantly to healthcare policy, national guidelines and national clinical programmes through membership of national and international committees.

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To achieve our goal to support the global action against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) prevention and control, departmental members work actively with industry partners to investigate novel preventative and treatment approaches. 

For example, development of an interactive prototype PPE (Personal protective equipment) trainer as part of a recent collaboration with Surewash. This is a commercially available interactive kiosk that uses camera-based augmented reality and gamified learning to train and assess hand hygiene technique with resultant improvements in compliance. This system is now used in RCSI for education and assessment of undergraduate medical students, in addition to many healthcare facilities worldwide.

A partnership with MEG support tools to develop a user-friendly antimicrobial stewardship audit app helped antimicrobial stewardship teams focus on feedback to improve prescribing (which in turns prevent antimicrobial resistance) rather than spending all their time collecting data.

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Aspects of our lung biology research are also carried out in collaboration with industry partners. Together with Aerogen we have developed proof-of-concept drug-device combinations comprising experimental microRNA-targeting drugs coupled with high performance aerosol delivery methods. In the recent past we have also partnered with ChiPro GMBH to test the potential of biopolymer-based nanoparticles for lung gene therapy studies.

Two of our cystic fibrosis research programmes are funded by grants from Vertex Pharmaceuticals – these explore the contribution of estrogen-regulated microRNAs to expression of pulmonary antiproteases, and explore whether circular RNA expression patterns are altered in people with cystic fibrosis and contribute to the pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis lung disease.

Professor and Head of Department

Associate Professors

Emeritus Professor

Senior Lecturers

Clinical Lecturers

  • Rachel Grainger
  • Melanie Cunningham
  • Conor Mulrooney
  • Andrew Beverland (Immunology)
  • Aaron Doherty
  • Zainab Baker 

Teaching Coordinator  

  • Tracey Dillane 

Postdoctoral Researchers

PhD Students

  • Aoife Kearney
  • Aaron Doherty
  • Kaja Turzanska

Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturers

  • Dr Karina O’Connell
  • Dr Binu Dinesh
  • Dr Ciara O Connor
  • Dr Richard Drew
  • Dr Robert Cunney
  • Dr Suzanne Corcoran
  • Dr Roisin Connolly
  • Dr Helene Mc Dermott
  • Dr Alida FeTalento

Honorary Lecturer

  • Dr Mary Corcoran
  • Dr Robert Mulhall
  • Dr Edel O’Regan 

Honorary Clinical Associate Professors

  • Professor Karen Burns
  • Professor Edmond Smyth

Administrator

  • Ann Shannon