Dr. Bairbre McNicoholas tells us about her work as an intensivist doctor at Galway University Hospitals
I’m driven to understand how our immune systems effects recovery from severe illness. As part of my current post, I get to practice research both as a clinician and as a scientist. I am involved in many clinical trials that aim to scientifically determine the best treatment for critically ill patients –including developing faster ways to conduct clinical trials during a pandemic.
I work with scientists at NUI Galway studying the role of the cells of the immune system particularly in the later stages of sepsis which we have extended to help understand the effects of COVID-19.
One particular question we are testing is whether the immune system becomes exhausted during the recovery stage of sepsis and if this can be detected in the blood of patients with sepsis. We ask patients (or their next of kin where they are too ill to be asked themselves) for blood from which we extract the immune cells. We use flow cytometry to determine if there are markers to suggest that their immune cells are functioning abnormally. Determining when immune cells go from being able to fight infection to becoming exhausted is important as if we want to reverse exhaustion, a treatment used too early may worsen outcomes