Papworth Heroes

Bill Newsom

Medical Microbiologist
Helped achieve advances through leading-edge research.

Bill Newsom joined Peter Stovin in the laboratory as a medical microbiologist in 1967, a time when the ten consultants met weekly for a clinico-pathological conference, allowing exceptionally efficient patient care.

Tuberculosis was on the decline, but the steadily increasing cardiothoracic workload provided a great source of interest to a microbiologist, generating Lancet publications including: Hospital infection from contaminated ice (the theatre/intensive care ward ice machine was the problem); the microbiology of hospital toilets; Pseudomonas aeruginosa in hospital sinks; local chemotherapy for pseudomonas lung abscesses, and wound infections following cardiothoracic surgery; supplemented by many Lancet editorials and publications in other journals.

The Transplant Service added a new dimension - unusual infections (eg Listeria meningitis).

Initially the unknown prompted seemingly excessive precautions including prolonged barrier nursing, sterilisation of food and newspapers, and a morning visit from the microbiologist for the first post-operative month. Fortunately things soon settled down and sense prevailed.

Papworth Hospital was ideal for antibiotic research. The first trials of three effective antibiotics - ceftazidime, cefotaxime and ciprofloxacin - included Papworth patients. Ciprofloxacin became the best-selling antibiotic in the world ten years later.