Microbiology

Growing numbers of compromised patients are at risk from opportunistic infections by a wide range of bacterial and fungal pathogens that continue to evolve in the face of therapeutic challenge and to exploit new niches for colonisation.

Theme leader


Professor Jim Spencer


C. elegans being killed by Candida albicans
C. elegans being killed by Candida albicans Image credit: Dr Stephanie Diezmann

Researchers in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine are investigating the mechanisms by which these organisms can establish and maintain infection, and the routes by which they acquire and disseminate antimicrobial resistance. We aim to translate these findings into methodologies to combat infectious disease: new approaches to detecting infection; designing and evaluating vaccines for infectious diseases; and identifying and evaluating new generations of antimicrobial drugs. 

Studies of bacterial infection encompass a range of pathogens and their interactions with the human host. Ruth Massey is identifying new mechanisms by which common pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, and its methicillin-resistant derivative MRSA, cause infection. Darryl Hill is investigating how bacterial pathogens attach to human cells, aiming to identify new routes to vaccine development for diseases including the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea. Adam Finn studies the interplay of host and bacteria in the upper respiratory tract, with particular reference to the response to and efficacy of vaccines in children. 

Matthew Avison and Jim Spencer focus upon antibiotic resistance how bacteria can evolve to become resistant to antibiotics, how the underlying chemistry of the bacterial cell is altered to enable antibiotic resistance, and how resistance can be transmitted between bacteria. We are exploiting this information to identify ways to block resistance so that some of our most important antibiotics remain effective. 

Stephanie Diezmann studies infections by fungi, neglected pathogens that account for more deaths than malaria or tuberculosis and for which available drug treatments are limited. Identification and characterisation of fungal pathogenesis mechanisms can provide routes to urgently needed new drugs for fungal infections.

C. elegans being killed by Candida albicans
C. elegans being killed by Candida albicans Image credit: Dr Stephanie Diezmann
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