Blog posts

COVID-19 and fungal lung infections – a case study on aspergillosis

Jenny Shelton highlights the potential for invasive and chronic fungal lung infections with Aspergillus fumigatus in COVID-19 patients and the dangers posed by growing antifungal resistance.


Virtually unknown just a few months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions worldwide. The pathogen responsible, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), infects alveolar cells in the lungs. Parallels are already emerging between severe COVID-19 infection and severe influenza. Influenza, or ‘the flu’, is also caused by a virus that infects cells along the respiratory tract and is associated with similar symptoms to COVID-19 but has a lower death rate (<0.1%). Studies have found that up to 65% of individuals hospitalised with severe influenza infection are co-infected with bacteria. A recent review found 9 studies, undertaken in China and USA, that reported bacterial coinfection in a combined 62 of 806 (8%) individuals admitted to hospital with COVID-19 infection  and the majority of patients (72%) received antimicrobial drugs.

Another secondary infection associated with severe influenza is invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), which develops when spores from the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus grow in the lung and pass into the bloodstream to cause sepsis. IPA is diagnosed in up to 19% of individuals hospitalised with influenza,  with significantly higher mortality in the patients with IPA. (more…)

My experience of lockdown and maternity as a female academic

Dr Teresa Thurston shares her experience as a relatively new PI of looking after a new-born, homeschooling and keeping in touch with her lab during lockdown.


The pressure of the pandemic has been felt particularly hard by parents juggling work and childcare, often with fewer hours available for work. In some households, the burden of care work continues to fall disproportionately on women and this may be true for academia as well; journal editors have noted that early evidence suggests fewer paper submissions from women than men whilst under quarantine.

Every one of us has been hit by lockdown and many people are struggling to juggle work with kids at home. It has been more than 50 days since my family of five begun isolation. My husband came down with a fever and cough and went to bed and I picked up the kids for the last time. After telling our afterschool nanny not to come over, panic hit. I had no idea how I was going to cope. I was still recovering from delivering a 5Kg baby who was just four weeks old and now I was solely responsible for three kids and a sick husband. This was not going to be any ordinary maternity leave. (more…)

Embracing change as an immunologist in the time of Covid-19

Professor Danny Altmann explores how the pandemic has offered new perspectives on his research, leading to new collaborations and engaging with policy.


If any of us ever wished for greater prominence, respect, or public understanding of our scientific contributions to society, this is not the way we would have wished to achieve it. For so many at Imperial working in diverse aspects of infection, immunity and global health, this has been a time of much urgent soul-searching as to how we can best bring our skill sets to bear on the problem most effectively, whether as clinicians, disease modellers, vaccinologists or basic immunologists. It’s hard to turn on a news broadcast or open a newspaper without seeing opinions from Imperial colleagues, clinical and scientific.

At a time when the mantra is ‘policy led by the science’, this is absolutely as it should be. We often have it ingrained as scientists to keep our heads down lest we be accused of showboating or playing ‘Johnny-Big-Potato’ by making inflated claims about our research. Yet, this is a time when it’s OK and even laudable to stick your head above the parapet: when it genuinely matters, and people genuinely want to know, what are these different types of antibody tests, is antibody protective and how long does it last, which may be the most effective vaccines. This surely is the time to step up to the plate, whether by adapting the research focus of our labs to the current issues, by communicating and trying to clarify the nuances, and of course, by remembering our commitments to our students and trying to work out how to keep them stimulated and scientifically productive despite lockdown. (more…)

The place they will be born: Mohawk midwives and mothers

This time last year, as part of a pre-doctorate NIHR fellowship, Alison Perry visited a First Nations reserve in Canada to learn about the history of aboriginal women as mothers and the culture of midwifery.

On International Day of the Midwife 2020 we are pleased to republish her article from British Journal of Midwifery.


Just past ‘Bear Paw Gas and Convenience’ and not far from ‘Talking Earth Pottery’ sits Tsi Non:we Ionnakeratstha Maternal and Child Health Centre. The name is Mohawk for ‘the place they will be born’. A sign proudly announces that six babies have been born there so far in March. On the other side of the sign it wishes the community a ‘substance-free’ holiday. It is a First Nations birthing place and a small slice of cultural healing.

Less than 24 hours in Canada, my taxi pulled off Sour Springs Road to drop me off on First Nations Reserve no. 40, roughly halfway between Brantford and Hagersville, Ontario, and more than 100 km south of Toronto’s financial district. I had travelled by plane, train and taxi to get there, and I was late for my long-standing appointment with midwife and manager of the birth centre, Julie Wilson. After almost 20 years in the UK, I was confronted with a kind of reverse culture shock, but I was also aware that I was going somewhere I had never been before. (more…)

Masks and health: from the 19th century to COVID-19

Historian of medicine Dr Jennifer Wallis explores some of the parallels between 19th-century health concerns and the current pandemic, and introduces us to one of her favourite Victorian objects.


I spent most of Sunday afternoon sewing face masks out of old t-shirts, pretty inexpertly and with more than a few pricked fingers. In a recent article for the BMJ, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh and colleagues argue for the precautionary principle when it comes to mask-wearing during the COVID-19 crisis. They argue that ‘we have little to lose and potentially something to gain’ from wearing masks. A quick Google search for news items about masks yields a constantly growing number of results and questions: Who should be wearing masks and where? What should masks be made of? Can/should masks be fashion items? (more…)

The unsung heroes of Bergen-Belsen

Group photograph of the Westminster Medical School students who travelled to Bergen-Belsen (Credit: Wellcome Images)

The 75th anniversary of our students volunteering in the war.


In April 1945, just before the Second World War ended, nearly 100 medical students from across London volunteered to support the British army. In this group, there were students from St Mary’s Medical School and Westminster Medical School, two of the schools that formed Imperial College School of Medicine. 75 years on, we want to share their stories and celebrate their courage. (more…)

I sat an open book medical school final exam from my bedroom

Year group photo taken before exams

Final year MBBS medical student, Shohaib Ali, shares his experience of taking the first ever remote online finals last week.


As I sat in my dressing gown, a cup of tea on my desk, and my laptop fully charged, I took in the scene and started to laugh. This wasn’t supposed to be how six years of medical school ended. Covid-19 had burst into everyone’s lives, respecting no national boundaries, why would it pay homage to the smilingly sacred medical school finals? (more…)

Why good cancer research must have the patient at the centre

Kelly Gleason, CRUK Lead Nurse, explores the value of patient and public involvement in cancer research and how it can improve the quality and outcomes of research.


Patient and public involvement (PPI) is increasingly recognised as important. Funding bodies are asking for more and more from researchers in regard to patient and public involvement. They want to see evidence of authentic and ongoing relationships between researchers and the public that is informing what is being researched, how it is being researched and how findings are shared with the public. Funders want to see more co-creation between researchers and the public and for this to happen, researchers require help accessing larger patient networks and support in maintaining relationships with patients.

My journey with PPI at Imperial

I became involved in patient and public involvement almost a decade ago – it was a relatively novel concept back then. The need for cancer researchers to access patients to involve in their research was increasing. The Imperial Cancer Research UK Centre, where I work as a Lead Nurse, established a group of patients and members of the public for Imperial researchers to have easy access to the patient voice. The group served as a resource to researchers and inputted on everything from grant proposals to lay summaries. They helped us create a research culture at Imperial where patients were integral to what and how we carried out cancer research. (more…)

Eating disorders: why are they so important to study?

Around 1.25 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorder psychiatrist, Dr Dasha Nicholls, provides an insight into this group of complex disorders and the factors that influence them.


It’s common for people to be dismissive when I tell them I work in the eating disorders field. Unless you have suffered from or know someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, the public perception, and indeed the scientific and clinical one often too, is that eating disorders are not serious. Of course, everyone knows of a few high profile people who have suffered or died from an eating disorder, but they may be seen as rare casualties of a celebrity lifestyle.

What many people don’t know is that most people with an eating disorder are of normal or even higher weight, that boys and men are affected too and that eating disorders don’t discriminate by ethnicity or social class. For most people, eating disorders start in the teenage years or young adulthood, but children as young as seven and adults as old as 90 can suffer too. The incidence in children has increased significantly in the past 15 years, for reasons I will speculate on more below. (more…)

Meet our LGBT+ student community

As a part of LGBT+ History Month, Stevie Lam, from the School of Medicine has teamed up with IQ Society to celebrate our LGBT+ community and share their stories! 


Jeh – 4th Year MBBS Medicine

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