Humaira Ahmed
A fourth-year medical student has published a piece of research on a contagious disease – with the process, and striking results, inspiring her career path.
Humaira Ahmed, who is studying at the University of Plymouth, co-wrote a study that showed how superbug Clostridioides difficile (commonly known as C. diff) was still living on hospital scrubs and surfaces despite being treated with high concentrations of bleach.
The results have prompted calls for urgent research to find alternative strategies to disinfect C. diff spores to minimise transmission in clinical environments. Such was the impact of the research process that Humaira is now pursuing a career in infectious disease, dermatology and surgery.
Humaira had previously completed a degree in Biomedical Science, also at Plymouth, and it was during this time that she first came across research techniques and opportunities.
Inspired by one of her lecturers, Dr Tina Joshi, she took part in science engagement activities for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and decided to further explore C. diff for her dissertation.
She obtained an outstanding grade for the research and, following further collaboration and results analysis with Dr Joshi, they submitted the paper for publication.
Now in the latter stages of her medical degree, Humaira hopes to put the results into action.
Humaira Ahmed
Humaira Ahmed

Having undertaken placements in a variety of settings, I’ve seen many C. diff cases and I know how horrible its effects are.

It’s so important we find ways to properly disinfect surfaces and minimise disease transmission, as well as highlighting the impact of overusing biocides like bleach – it’s contributing to antimicrobial resistance, which is a huge problem facing human health worldwide.

People might think that research only starts with a PhD but I was so pleased to grab the opportunity as an undergraduate.

I’m really grateful to Tina for encouraging me to pursue the topic and supporting me through the process. Research ensures that we’re operating with the most accurate science, so I’d encourage anyone to get involved with it – I’m looking forward to continuing with research throughout my career.
Humaira Ahmed, fourth-year medical student

We want to ensure our students get the very best out of their time with us, which centres around giving them as many opportunities to excel in their field as possible.

Humaira’s passion and aptitude for research was a pleasure to support, and the impact of her work could have huge implications in clinical environments.

We’re proud of our public engagement work in antimicrobial resistance here at Plymouth, and studies like this add to the growing evidence base that we need to act quickly to protect our global health.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Humaira, and hopefully other undergraduates coming through at the University, do next.

Tina JoshiTina Joshi
Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology

Clostridium difficile spores survive on hospital gowns after disinfection with chlorine at 1000 ppm (recommended guidelines).

Find out more about Humaira's study

Humaira's research showed spores of Clostridioides difficile, commonly known as C. diff, are completely unaffected despite being treated with high concentrations of bleach used in many hospitals.
She and co-author Dr Tina Joshi say susceptible people working and being treated in clinical settings might be unknowingly placed at risk of contracting the superbug – and urgent research is needed to find alternative strategies to disinfect C. diff spores.