Identification of the microorganisms responsible for acute head and neck infections

Impact: 03: Good Health and Well-Being (UN SDG)

Description of impact

Acute head and neck infections cause significant pain and discomfort for patients and impact on their quality of life. Effective antibiotic and surgical treatments have been developed for these infections but they are still able to develop into life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and sepsis. The direct cause of acute head and neck infections is often unknown but it has been suggested that they are due to a disturbance of the normal bacterial growing in the mouth or are from dental origin. The most common microorganisms identified from these infections in published studies are a group of bacteria known as viridans group streptococci (VGS). There are over 30 individual species of bacteria in the viridans group and VGS are difficult to identify to the level of a single species because of their variability. There is a lack of species identification within the hospital setting and this project aims to gain a deeper understanding of the microorganisms causing acute head and neck infections, focusing on identification of individual species of VGS bacteria. We will analyse bacterial DNA to determine which species have been identified and will also look at patient data and clinical outcomes (eg. length of hospital stay) to determine if the species causing the infection has any effect on patients.

Outcomes of the study will be openly accessible via the University of Northampton PURE research database and will be linked here.

The impact of this work will be assessed by comparing the results with studies that have been conducted previously. The published literature will be assessed using a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to find a baseline of how microorganisms causing acute head and neck infections have been identified and to what level of detail. This can then be compared to our study.

We are planning engagement with the Patient and Public Involvement group at Northampton General Hospital to assess the impact on patients of this study.

The outcomes of the study may also impact on clinicians in oral and maxillofacial disciplines by increasing their awareness of the microorganisms causing these infections and perhaps affecting their treatment plans. We plan to engage with the membership of the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons to form a network of stakeholders that we can work with.

This work may also impact on standard laboratory identification procedures for these types of bacteria and/or patient samples. Depending on the outcomes of the study it may be appropriate to engage with the Institute of Biomedical Science and microbiological learned societies to evaluate the current clinical guidance for bacterial identification of viridans group streptococci.


Patients and staff of Oral, Maxillofacial and Orthodontics Department, Northampton General Hospital

Staff from Pathology laboratory (Microbiology), Northampton General Hospital

Future patients, clinicians and laboratory staff involved in acute head and neck infections
Impact statusPlanning
Category of impact03: Good Health and Well-Being (UN SDG)
Impact levelPlanning