Alder Hey is an established centre of excellence in infectious diseases. Acute infection is the leading single cause of death in childhood in the UK, being responsible for about 15% of childhood deaths. There are no reliable tests available to confidently and speedily diagnose serious bacterial infection. This leads to delayed or missed diagnosis, sometimes resulting in complications which can be fatal.

Along with the University of Liverpool, we have brought together leading infection researchers into the Institute in the Park.

Key areas of study

•    Biomarkers of infection
•    Respiratory virus infections
•    Improving lives of children with Cystic Fibrosis
•    Stratified medicines
•    Asthma
•    Infections in children with congenital abnormalities
•    Severe infections in children
•    Antimicrobial studies in children

Meet the team

Respiratory virus infections
Professor Paul McNamara, Brian Flanagan

Improving the lives of children with CF
Professor Kevin Southern

Biomarkers of Infection & Stratified Medicine
Professor Enitan Carrol


Professor - Severe Acute Respiratory Infection 
Professor Calum Semple

Mechanisms of Disease
Dr Brian Flanagan, Professor Paul McNamara

Sepsis detection

Researchers from the University of Liverpool are working with commercial partners to develop a rapid bedside test for the early detection of Sepsis.

The diagnosis of Sepsis can be difficult, because in the early stages, signs and symptoms are non-specific. Sepsis claims over 37,000 lives in the United Kingdom annually – more than lung cancer and more than breast cancer and bowel cancer combined. Early recognition and intervention saves lives, and may save as many as 15,000 lives annually in the UK per year.

The novel bedside test uses a combination of blood markers to detect bacterial infection, and it is hoped that the test will be performed on a simple finger prick blood sample to give a result within two minutes. Early results show that the innovative test is much better at diagnosing Septicaemia (which is life-threatening) than currently used tests and could therefore potentially save lives.

Archie’s Story

In March 2014, Archie Veale was flown to Alder Hey from his local hospital in the Isle of Man with a suspected infection. It began when Archie was complaining of back ache. The pain became severe and after a couple of trips to his local surgery he was taken by ambulance to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). His condition rapidly deteriorated, he needed to be sedated and was brought to the ICU at Alder Hey. 

As he was fighting for his life, doctors decided that in addition to ventilation, he needed to be connected to an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine which took over the function of the heart and lungs and helped deliver oxygen into the blood. Blood tests finally confirmed he had a Staphylococcus infection which is a group of bacteria that produces a rare toxin called Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) targeting his heart, lungs and muscles. The Staphylococcus infection had caused severe Sepsis. He had to be sedated for three weeks so they could provide the necessary intensive treatment. After 47 days on ICU, Archie was able to be moved to Alder Hey’s specialist neurology ward for rehabilitation and spent four months in hospital.

From day one Archie’s parents agreed for medical staff to involve Archie in research. During his time on ICU, he had blood taken regularly as part of his care, a small amount of which was used for research. The study looked at genetic reasons why people may suffer from life threatening infection and why different people with the same condition may have more or less severe disease. 

After a lot of treatment Archie was able to return to the Isle of Man and has continued with his physiotherapy. He no longer uses a wheelchair and is progressing well. It’s been over a year, but Archie is still working hard to recover. In April 2015, he was invited to address a one day infection conference of university academics and NHS clinicians in Liverpool. He spoke poignantly about the importance of the early diagnosis of Sepsis, knowing that it could have been a very different story, if he had not received life-saving treatment at Alder Hey. 

Alder Hey Children's Charity
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Alder Hey Children's Charity