Bacterial pathogenesis: molecular mechanisms to prevention
Human bacterial pathogens are a specialized subset of array microbes we encounter as part of our flora. The group seeks to understand the basis of how pathogens colonise specific niches in the body, evade elimination by the immune system, and cause disease. We study Neisseria spp., which are leading causes of bacterial meningitis and gonorrhoea, and focus on how these microbes subvert the host complement system. Work on this fundamental step in pathogenesis has led to structure:function based design of novel vaccine antigens, which are being developed towards clinical trials, and insights into the genetic basis of host susceptibility to meningococcal disease. Furthermore, we examine how sequence variation in genes encoding the adhesive organelles, Type four pili (Tfp), affects interactions with host cells and recognition by the immune system.
The group also investigates the molecular basis of the virulence of the enteric pathogens, Shigella spp. and Yersinia spp. We study the mechanisms involved in the entry of bacteria into non-phagocytic cells, their ability to survive in the intracellular niche, and the response of these important human pathogens to conditions experienced within their natural habitat, the gastrointestinal tract.
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*joint corresponding authors