Centre for Inflammation Research

Dr Beth Mills

Studying microbial keratitis (infection of the cornea) through molecular characterisation of the disease and health-system mapping methodologies to enable scalable and responsible translation of public health interventions, diagnostic development and treatment strategies.

Dr Beth Mills

UKRI Future Leader Fellow

  • Centre for Inflammation Research

Contact details

Group Members

  • Alex Kiang, PhD student (co-supervisor)
  • Sheelagh Duncan, Research Assistant

Background

Microbial Keratitis (MK) - an infection of the cornea caused by invading bacteria or fungi - is a silent epidemic, disproportionately affecting low-middle income countries (LMICs), and is a major cause of blindness. Despite being a WHO priority disease area, it has not explicitly been covered by Vision2020 frameworks and as such, it has garnered little policy, research or development focus over the last 20+ years. In India alone, 1.5-2 million people experience corneal ulcer per year, predominantly affecting the rural-poor.

Corneal ulcer is an "ophthalmic emergency" and the longer the delay to seek appropriate treatment, the worse the outcome. Even where gold-standard diagnostics and treatments are available, over 60% of corneal ulcer patients are still left with visual impairment across India, and >10% of patients require expensive and often unsuccessful surgical interventions such as corneal transplant. These permanent, debilitating outcomes are often attributed to an excessive and uncontrolled inflammatory response, leading to scarring and corneal perforation. Furthermore, these bleak statistics are for the minority of patients who are able to access specialist care in large cities. The rural-poor are, in reality, much worse off. A radical re-development of the entire healthcare pathway, from diagnosis to treatment, is required to improve the prognosis for these patients

Research Overview

The overarching aim of our work is towards reducing needless blindness attributed to microbial keratitis (corneal ulcer). The approach is two-fold, exploring both bottom-up (molecular characterisation of the disease pathways) and top-down (health-system and patient care pathway mapping) methodologies to drive fundamental insight into the disease, and enable rapid, appropriate translation of public health interventions, and diagnostic development within the Indian context. This work is conducted in close collaboration with the Aravind Eye Care System (AECS), and the Aravind Medical Research Foundation (AMRF), India.

Biographical Profile

Beth graduated from the University of Sheffield with a 1st class degree in Medical Microbiology and was awarded her PhD in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Nottingham. She subsequently joined the Proteus project and Translational Healthcare Technologies group at the University of Edinburgh in 2015, where she led infection model development and the validation of optical SmartProbes and imaging devices for clinical translation in pulmonology. More recently Beth has been exploring how such technologies can be adapted for point-of-care diagnosis of infection, considering technological, user and health system requirements in low-resource settings. Beth completed an MSc in Global Health Policy in 2019 at the University of Edinburgh, and has built extensive networks across healthcare settings in India with whom she collaborates to co-design and evaluate these technologies, particularly in the field of microbial keratitis. Beth was awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2021 to develop pathways to diagnose, treat and reduce the burden of microbial keratitis in India, with project partner Aravind Eye Care System.  

Public Engagement

  1.  Our Health Global, University of Edinburgh Research lead - 2019 to present
  2.  AMR DxC (Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostics Challenge) training schools, Mentor - 2017-2018
  3.  Edinburgh International Book Festival - 2017
  4.  Edinburgh Science Festival - 2015-2016
  5.  Nesta: Promoting the Longitude Explorer Prize competition at Derby Big Bang Science Fair - 2014
  6.  Ignite Futures! - 2012-2014

Collaborators

External:

  1.  Dr V Prajna, Aravind Eye Care System
  2.  Aurolabs
  3.  Aravind Medical Research Foundation (AMRF)
  4.  Professor Rachel Williams, Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool
  5.  Dr Satadal Saha, JSV Innovations, India
  6.  Dr Naing Latt Tint, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Edinburgh

Internal:

  1.  Professor Kev Dhaliwal, THT, CIR
  2.  Professor Marc Vendrell, CIR
  3.  Professor Adriano Rossi, CIR
  4.  Dr Helen Stagg, Usher Institute
  5.  EdinOmics

Funding

  • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship
  • EPSRC

Information on funding at Beth Mill's Research Explorer profile.