Funding healthcare-associated infection research: a systematic analysis of UK research investments, 1997-2010

M G Head, J R Fitchett, A H Holmes, R Atun
Journal of Hospital Infection 2014, 87 (2): 84-91

BACKGROUND: Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are a cause of high health and economic burden in the UK. The number of HCAI research studies funded in the UK, and the associated amount of investment, has not previously been analysed.

AIM: To assess the level of research funding awarded to UK institutions for HCAI research and the relationship of funded research to clinical and public health burden of HCAIs.

METHODS: Databases and websites were systematically searched for information on how infectious disease research studies were funded for the period 1997-2010. Studies specifically related to HCAI research were identified and categorized in terms of funding by pathogen, disease, and by a research and development value chain describing the type of science.

FINDINGS: The overall dataset included 6165 studies (total investment £2.6 billion) of which £57.7 million was clearly directed towards HCAI research across 297 studies (2.2% of total spend, 2.1% of total studies). Of the HCAI-related projects, 45 studies had a specific focus on MRSA (£10.3 million), 14 towards Clostridium difficile (£10.7 million), two towards pneumonia (£0.3 million) and 103 studies related to surgical infections (£14.1 million). Mean and median study funding was £194,129 (standard deviation: £429,723) and £52,684 (interquartile range: £9,168 to £201,658) respectively. Award size ranged from £108 to £50.0 million.

CONCLUSIONS: Research investment for HCAIs has gradually increased in the study period, but remains low due to the health, economic, and social burden of HCAI. Research for hospital-acquired pneumonia, behavioural interventions, economic analyses, and research on emerging pathogens exhibiting antimicrobial resistance remain underfunded.

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