Clinical Academic Training

Infectious Diseases/Medical Microbiology

Respiratory virus immunophenotyping and diagnosis 


  • Manish Pareek
  • Pranab Haldar
  • Andrea Cooper
  • Julian Tan
  • Amandip Sahota

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and resulting Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has caused over 3 million deaths globally. SARS-CoV-2 infection in many cases causes a mild self-limiting illness. However, in a small proportion of individuals, infection causes immune dysfunction and a hyperinflammatory state resulting in respiratory failure and sometimes death. Whilst current concerns regarding Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) predominate, seasonal epidemics of influenza, one of the main drivers for winter pressures on health care systems, remains a public health threat. Although estimates of the influenza infection fatality rate are lower than SARS-CoV-2, infections still result in substantial morbidity and mortality.

The University of Leicester has been one of the leading academic institutions in the UK for COVID-19 research. Researchers have been awarded a UKRI/NIHR grant of over £2 million to investigate the observed disparity of severe COVID-19 in people of ethnic minorities, including through immunophenotyping. The University has both the expertise and facilities to complete a range of T-cell assays and has close links with other national and international laboratories for additional tests. One key challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic was the need for a rapid and accurate diagnostic test for patients hospitalised with respiratory symptoms and assessing their risk of further deterioration. Analysis of exhaled volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a newly emerging approach to the diagnosis of infection and has the advantage of being – non-invasive, rapid, portable, and can be completed by non-laboratory staff. VOCs provide a unique profile of the body's metabolic milieu, which can be utilised as a diagnostic test and disease severity marker. The University has a skilled group of clinical and analytical researchers with strengths in VOC research from the EMBER group and BELIEVE study.

Successful ACF candidates will have the option of working on one of two projects with the Infectious Diseases team. The first option would involve the characterisation of the VOC signature of inpatients with respiratory infections of both bacterial and viral origin and assess its potential as a diagnostic test and marker of disease severity against previous work conducted as part of the BELIEVE study. Alternatively the second project’s main aim will be to characterise the acute COVID-19 and influenza immune response in parallel to investigate the immunopathology of both infections. We will use blood collected from inpatients admitted with COVID-19 and influenza for T-cell immunophenotyping and blood RNA transcriptomics. The study will utilise previous data from the DIRECT study and a pilot study in hospitalised patients with COVID-19. In both projects the ACF will be involved in patient recruitment, data analysis and receive tailored training in study design, statistics and bioinformatics.

Medical Education

If you are interested in progressing an educational research project within the speciality please visit the medical education project page


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