Sam Robson giving a talk to an audience

Dr Sam Robson and his collaborators are utilising cutting-edge DNA sequencing and X-ray microscopy approaches to explore the natural formation of microbiological biofilms on implants.

  • 10 September 2019
  • 4 min read

The Faculties of Science, Technology and CCI are working with clinical scientists, microbiologists and surgeons from Queen Alexandra Hospital to identify novel biomarkers for early prediction of infection in patients with orthopaedic implants. The principal investigator on the project, Dr Sam Robson, who is a Bioinformatics Lead for the Faculty of Science and the Centre for Enzyme Innovation, has secured funding from Themes Research and Innovation Fund (TRIF) to make this possible.

Multidisciplinary research

This project combines microbiology, genetics, clinical care, computational data mining, microscopy, and statistics, in a sustainable multidisciplinary research project in synergy between multiple University faculties and the Portsmouth Hospitals Trust.Thanks to this close collaboration the first patient was recruited into this study less than three weeks after submission for NHS ethical approval; the study continues to recruit and run well. 

Process flow from Aseptic and Septic to Biofilm profiling and structure

Working with the Themes

This important project aligns with the Healthcare Technologies, which is one of the main focus areas for the Themes, and could bring real benefit to patients and the NHS. Prosthetic joint infection (PJI) represents one of the most common reasons for failure among hip and knee arthroplasty, and no specific early markers for infection onset exist. Given the significant costs to the NHS for corrective revision surgery, the added suffering and risks to patients from surgery, and the risk of enhancing antimicrobial resistance through the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, a more specific predictive test for early onset of infection is required. 

Funding from the TRIF call has allowed us to work very closely with colleagues at the hospital to develop a robust research project which will hopefully lead to significant improvements to the lives of people suffering with prosthetic joint infection. We hope that our results will pave the way for an effective early method of detection, reducing the need for painful and expensive surgery.

Dr Sam Robson, Senior Research Fellow in Bioinformatics

This study is a step towards trying to achieve this; Sam will be applying for further funding to continue this work once the results from the initial project become known.