Lives of the fellows

Mark William Casewell

b.17 August 1940 d.23 May 2011
BSc(1962) MB BS(1965) MRCS LRCP(1965) MRCPath(1975) MD(1978) FRCPath(1986) MRCP(1994) FRCP(1998)

Mark Casewell was professor and director of medical microbiology at King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, London. He was brought up near Southampton with his sister in a children’s home run by his mother, Phyllis Rebecca Casewell. His father was William John Ivor Casewell, an engineer. Mark first gained a BSc in physiology and then studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

After house jobs at Bart’s, he moved to Cambridge as a junior pathologist and then specialised in microbiology as a lecturer and then a senior lecturer at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. During his time at St Thomas’ he completed his MD thesis on the epidemiology of klebsiella infection on the intensive care unit. He established a very useful typing scheme for klebsiella and so established that the key mode of transmission was on hands. He demonstrated for the first time that hand hygiene was an essential facet of the control of multiply-resistant Gram-negative bacteria – something that is now a cornerstone of clinical practice.

When he moved to the London Hospital as a reader in 1980, he recognised the threat of infection caused by MRSA. There, in conjunction with David Williams and a number of research staff, he coordinated work on the new epidemic strains of MRSA. He undertook a number of significant epidemiological and laboratory studies on the value of MRSA screening and eradication with nasal mupirocin.

After four years at the London, he took up the chair in medical microbiology at King's. Here he continued his work on MRSA and the science of hand hygiene. He tackled new problems of hospital-acquired infection such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and co-wrote a book on hospital policies for the control of infection (Hospital infection control: policies and practical procedures, London, W B Saunders, c.1994). Together with the clinical teams such as the Institute of Liver Studies, he facilitated many studies on infection in liver disease and the prevention of central venous catheter infections, now recognised as a major contributor to bacteraemias and sepsis.

During the 1980s and 1990s he contributed significantly to the national and international work of microbiological societies such as the Hospital Infection Society (as scientific secretary and then as chairman) and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology (as the convenor of the first international congress of the society). He served on the editorial boards of journals associated with these and other societies, including the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

In all his research, administrative and clinical work he had a meticulous approach to the many problems he faced. He was also an excellent, persuasive and engaging teacher and postgraduate lecturer. He was often invited to speak at major conferences and gave evidence on antimicrobial resistance to the 1997 House of Lords Select Committee. He developed an interest in the problem of antimicrobial use in animals and examined the evidence for its importance to human pathogens.

He was a very affable and charming colleague to work with and a careful clinician. He had a good sense of humour and a style that was somewhat renowned – especially in his taste for fast cars, cooking, all things Spanish (especially his future wife, Rosa Coello), and he had many friends with interests in the world of the visual arts.

Mark Casewell rightly earned an excellent international reputation as a clinical microbiologist, researcher, organiser and speaker. He will be greatly missed by his wife Rosa, his sister Miriam and his many friends and colleagues from his academic and personal life.

John Philpott-Howard

(Volume XII, page web)

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