Emeritus Professor Graham Ayliffe MD, BSc, FRCPath (1926 – 2017)

Graham Arthur John Ayliffe (2 March 1926 – 22 May 2017) was a medical microbiologist. He was Emeritus Professor in Medical Microbiology, University of Birmingham. He was instrumental in founding the International Federation for Infection Control (IFIC) in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1987. He was elected Chair in 1990. He was also a founder member of the Healthcare Infection Society and editor of its journal, Chairman of the Society (1980–84) and President (1988–94). The Graham Ayliffe Training Fellowship was established in 2013.

Graham was born in Hambrook, Gloucestershire, and educated at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Bristol (1937 – 1942). He served for three years in the Royal Navy as a medical assistant/laboratory technician and then went on to study Medicine at Bristol University. He joined the Department of Pathology at the Bristol Royal Infirmary under Professor William Gillespie in 1955. In 1959 he moved on to the Department of Bacteriology at Hammersmith Hospital under Professor Mary Barber (bacteriologist). He was awarded an MD from the University of Bristol in 1963.

He married Janet Lloyd in 1963 and they subsequently had two children.

In 1964 he joined the team at the Hospital Infection Research Laboratory (HIRL) in what is now known as City Hospital, Birmingham led by Professor Edward Lowbury. The research team at Birmingham carried out numerous surveys of hospital infection and explored the necessity of hand hygiene, the emergence of antibiotic resistance and surgical site infection (SSI).

The team at Birmingham (GAJ Ayliffe, JR Babb, AH Quoraishi) developed the six step hand-washing technique (known as the Ayliffe Technique). The technique was soon adopted by hospitals throughout the UK and was endorsed by the World Health Organisation in 2009.

He was appointed Director of the HIRL in 1980 following Lowbury’s retirement and he was appointed professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Birmingham in 1981 where he developed a practical course for medical students. His research interests included the control of MRSA, biological safety and endoscope decontamination.

He authored and co-authored numerous books and academic papers. In 2004 with his co-author Mary English their book Miasmas to MRSA was awarded the prize for the medical history book of the year given by the Royal Society of Medicine and the Society of Authors.