Understanding the host-pathogen interface and harnessing new discoveries to help tackle major human infections.
Aims of the research
By definition, infectious diseases involve at least two different organisms – the invading microbe and its unwitting host. Successful treatment of infections therefore typically rely on tackling both sides of this equation and weakening the pathogen whilst strengthening the host. Several areas of research within the Institute of Microbiology and Infection are aimed at understanding this host-pathogen interface and harnessing new discoveries to help tackle major human infections.
At the whole organism level, we are investigating how the immune system responds to infections in key organs such as the gut and the brain and to identify the genetic and environmental factors that may influence these responses. At the microscopic level, we are exploring how individual white blood cells, such as macrophages or T-cells, respond to specific pathogens and identifying strategies that some pathogens use to overcome these defences. We also study a very different sort of host-pathogen interaction, in which one species of bacteria preys upon another – a remarkable relationship that holds huge potential as a novel type of ‘living antibiotic’.
By combining these diverse approaches, we aim to identify changes in the immune system that may predispose certain individuals to infections. At the same time, we exploit our extensive ‘molecular toolkit’ to try and develop so-called ‘immunomodulatory’ approaches that are designed to stimulate patients’ immune systems to help them combat infections.