Scientists awarded £2 million for brain infection research

Liverpool, UK – 12 October 2009: Scientists at the University of Liverpool have been awarded £2 million by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to study brain infection that can develop from the same virus that causes cold sores.

Encephalitis is inflammation in the brain and it is most often caused by viral infections.  The Liverpool Brain Infections Group, based at the University, Walton Centre and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital – has been studying the infection for more than 10 years and has so far focused on outbreaks in Asia, where the disease affects thousands of children every year.

This new grant will allow scientists to study viruses, such as herpes, in UK populations.  In most people herpes cause cold sores, but in some it can cause a brain infection that can result in behavioural problems and in severe cases death.  Scientists will work with researchers from the Heath Protection Agency and the Encephalitis Society.

Professor Tom Solomon, Head of the Brain Infection Group, said: “Patients with encephalitis can be difficult to identify, because to begin with the virus just causes subtle changes, such as mild behavioural problems.  If doctors don’t recognise it, and act quickly, patients can rapidly deteriorate and may even die.”

Ava Easton, from the Encephalitis Society, added: “It’s fantastic news that the NIHR recognises encephalitis as an important problem in the UK, costing the NHS millions of pounds every year.  Each day we deal with new cases where families are left bereaved or individuals are left struggling to cope with the aftermath of this devastating condition.”

The grant announcement comes at the beginning of UK Encephalitis Awareness Week, where researchers will be working closely with health care workers and clinicians to improve understanding of the infection.  The Liverpool group is also leading on the development of national health guidelines for the diagnosis and management of encephalitis.

Notes to editors:

1. For more information about encephalitis visit the Encephalitis Society website at:

2. The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually.

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