Gala raises cash to fight superbugs

Leslie Ash, Professor Richard James and Alastair Stewart
14 Oct 2010 14:26:56.727

PA 280/10

Ambitious plans by researchers at The University of Nottingham to use the latest sophisticated scientific techniques in the fight against healthcare-acquired infections are a step closer, thanks to a charity fundraising event which has netted more than £26,000.

Researchers at the University’s Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections (CHAI), the country’s leading research institute studying the spread of superbugs, plan to use the cash injection towards funding their programme of next generation genome sequencing.

The £26,500 will boost the coffers of the centre’s ultimate fundraising goal of £1.4 million.

Click here for full story
The research will centre on the study of clinical strains that cause serious infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative bacteria which is particularly dangerous to those with weak immune systems, such as babies and young children.

Professor Richard James, Director of CHAI, said: “This important research will examine the genetic differences between these different strains of superbug which will give us a greater insight into the mechanisms they use to multiply and attack the human body. It will be instrumental in helping us to develop rapid diagnostic tests for the detection of these evolving pathogens.

“The support of fundraising events such as this is vital in providing us with a cash lifeline to underpin research, at a time when the future of funding from central government is uncertain, ahead of the awaited Comprehensive Spending Review.

“Unlike other medical causes such as cancer, there is currently no national charity dedicated to raising money to fund research into these deadly bacteria.”

The gala dinner and charity auction held at the Royal Automobile Club on London’s Pall Mall on September 30 saw exclusive lots going under the hammer in support of CHAI, including a pair of Debenture tickets for the opening day of Wimbledon 2011, the chance to tour the BBC studios and watch the national TV news air live and a haircut with celebrity stylist Trevor Sorbie.

The event was attended by CHAI’s patron Leslie Ash, the actress who suffered irreversible health problems after contracting MSSA, a strain of MRSA, six years ago.

Host for the evening was journalist and ITN newscaster Alastair Stewart who told the gathered supporters that his colleagues had come face-to-face many times with the sadness and tragedy caused by healthcare-acquired infections.

“This is an enemy that does not stand still and does not rest on its deadly laurels, with a death toll of 37,000 killed in the last 10 years,” he added. “To extend the military metaphor further, bacteria have an enormous and rapid capacity for change to meet any challenge thrown at them. They’re wily enemies, expert and camouflage, hyper-fast in responding to a changing tactical situation, exploiting every weakness immediately.

“And in this war, they’re often at least one jump ahead of their major enemy — us. Already they’ve extended their attack, out of the healthcare setting and into the community. But now they have an elite, special forces unit to deal with — CHAI.”

The event was organised by dedicated CHAI supporter Graziella Kontkowski, whose beloved 93-year-old grandmother Caterina Cotrulia contracted C.diff and died in September 2005, after initially having been admitted to hospital for a urinary tract infection.

Graziella said: “I am delighted that the event has resulted in such a fantastic donation towards the important research that Professor James and his colleagues are working on at CHAI. My hope was to honour the memory of my grandmother in a way that may help to ensure that, one day, families like mine won’t be left devastated in the wake of these deadly superbugs.

“I’m already thinking about new ways in which we can raise money for CHAI and I would urge anyone who has been affected by these healthcare-acquired infections to do the same.”

Among the sponsors and donors for the event were the infection and contamination control business Tristel plc and The Corniche Group.

Donations can be made via the CHAI website at or by contacting Steve Vesse, Senior Development Manager at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 3274 or by e-mail at

— Ends —

Notes to editors: University of Nottingham, described by The Times as “the nearest Britain has to a truly global university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 39,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.

The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

University facts and figures at:

Story credits

 More information is available from Graziella Kontkowski on +44 (0)7778 518177,; or Professor Richard James on +44 (0)115 846 7952,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Charity dinner in fight against superbugs

Published Date
Wednesday 29th September 2010

Secretary of State for Health meets Nottingham academics

Published Date
Monday 7th March 2011

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798