Professor Peter Hawkey BSc, DSc, MBBS, MD, FRCPath, FFPath, FRCPI

Peter Hawkey

Institute of Microbiology and Infection
Emeritus Professor of Clinical and Public Health Bacteriology
Honorary Consultant

Contact details

Institute of Microbiology and Infection
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
Using faeces as a licensed medicine

Peter has published over 300 research papers in the areas of molecular evolution and epidemiology of antibiotic resistance, Clostridium difficile, tuberculosis faecal microbiota transplantation and molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases. He is a regular speaker at international conferences and advisory boards on these topic areas.

Peter has edited two widely used clinical microbiology postgraduate textbooks: Principles and Practice of Clinical Bacteriology (Wiley) and Medical Bacteriology (OUP). His research support comes from the Department of Health (DoH), HPA, NERC, Wellcome Trust and the pharmaceutical industry.

Peter was a founder member of the Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections (ARHAI) and previously served as Director of the Microbiome Treatment Centre, which was set up in 2017 at the University of Birmingham within the Advanced Therapies Facility.


  • FRCPI, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 2012
  • DSc, University of Leeds, 2002
  • MRCPath, 1984
  • MD, University of Bristol, 1983
  • MB BS, University of London (Kings College Hospital), 1978
  • BSc (Hons) Microbiology, University of East Anglia, 1972


Peter Hawkey started his scientific career as a plant pathologist working on Gleosporium perrenans a fungal storage pathogen of pathogen in apples at East Malling Research Station. A longstanding attraction to medical microbiology following a research post in 1971 at Kings College Hospital prompted enrolment for a medical degree. Experience as a junior doctor looking after patients with the superbug of the 1970’s, gentamicin resistant, Klebsiella pneumoniae kindled a life-long interest in the mechanism and evolution of plasmid mediated resistance to antibiotics in gram negative bacteria.

Recruitment as a lecturer at the University of Bristol to work on gentamicin resistant Providencia stuartii resulted in a higher degree studying transposition immunity and composite transposon formation in vivo mediated by Tn3. This thesis supervised by Peter Bennett and Sir Mark Richmond, the MRCPath being obtained concurrently.

Due to lack of promotion opportunities in Bristol a move to work with Richard Lacey in Leeds as Senior Lecturer and subsequently a personal chair in 1992 facilitated the development of his research group which worked on molecular evolution of plasmids and antibiotic resistance genes in Enterobacteriaceae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and acinetobacter. The early application in 1989 of PCR to M. tuberculosis led to a further research area resulting in the development of clinical diagnostics for TB using PCR and rapid PCR-based typing techniques for M. tuberculosis.

An invitation to run a workshop in Guangzhou, China in 1997 led to the characterisation and first description of the gene encoding second most common CTX-M Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase (ESBL) in the world, CTX-M-14. His longstanding interest in the evolution and development of antibiotic resistance in China and the Far East has resulted in a number of important publications in the arena of molecular epidemiology of antibiotic resistance.

A move to the chair of public health and clinical bacteriology, which was newly established jointly by the University of Birmingham, HPA and Heart of England Foundation Trust, enabled more extensive development of research on the molecular epidemiology of M. tuberculosis, the environmental flow and evolution of antibiotic resistance genes in collaboration with the University of Warwick and the antibiotic research group founded by Professor Laura Piddock.

Peter’s group was the first to describe the existence of variable number tandem repeat DNA elements within the Staphylococcus aureus genome and to exploit those variable elements for rapid molecular typing to identify cases of cross-infection in patients. The application of the same technology to Clostridium difficile has led to research work on sub-typing of the dominant clones of Clostridium difficile in the UK and to chairing the Department of Health working party producing the definitive guidance on the control and management of Clostridium difficile infections for England.

A similar role has been filled in relation to ESBL and carbapenemase producing Enterobacteriaceae for the DoH through the Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections (ARHAI) of which Peter was a founder member.

For the last 20 years Peter has researched extensively on the subject of antibiotic resistance in South East Asia particularly through collaborative projects with colleagues in China and is visiting Professor at Xiangya Hospital, South Central University, Changsha. He is currently involved in shaping UK national policy on nosocomial infection control and antibiotic resistance by chairing and participating in expert groups and committees in the UK and Europe.


Research themes

Antimicrobial resistance, molecular epidemiology, rapid diagnostics for infection, clinical trials. Peter’s work focuses on the following four areas:

Novel resistance mechanisms

Peter’s research group is currently studying widely dispersed and clinically very important mechanisms of resistance to Extended Spectrum cephalosporins and carbapenem antibiotics. Collaboration both locally across the Midlands and internationally in China and India are involved in characterising the molecular basis and genetic mobility of newly emerging and emerged resistance genes to these antibiotics.

Molecular epidemiology

Peter has been involved in developing novel molecular characterisation techniques for nosocomial (hospital acquired) bacteria for over 30 years. The group is exploring the use of genomics and other genetic techniques which can be applied quickly to differentiate particular clones of bacteria causing nosocomial infection. A wide range of pathogens from Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacteriaceae, Clostridium difficile and Mycobacterium tuberculosis is studied by the group.

Identification of nosocomial pathogens

Rapid methods for screening patients and identifying nosocomial bacteria are both developed and existing methodologies subjected to clinical trial by the group.

Novel interventions to reduce nosocomial infection

Currently studied approaches include the introduction of clinical care systems to enhance control of nosocomial infection and the use of novel probiotic strategies. Development and research on the use of Faecal Transplant Therapy (FTT) for treating severe Clostridium difficile infection. Peter has established the largest UK FTT service and is applying the technique with Professor Tigobal to the treatment of IBD. Read a BBC News article from 2015 on this research.

Other activities

National Committees and Advisory Groups (member of):

  • PHE HCAI & AMR Programme Board (2009 onwards)
  • Chairman of NEQAS microbiology steering committee (2009)
  • Department of Health’s Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections (ARHAI) [previously Specialist Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Research] (2006 onwards), and the ARHAI sub-committee on Healthcare-associated Infection Research Network (HAIRN) (2008 onwards)
  • Chairman of DoH working party on the control and management of Clostridium difficile infections, and member of the DoH MRSA working party (2005 onwards)
  • Defra Antimicrobial Resistance Co-ordination Group (DARC) (2005 onwards) and chair of the DARC group’s sub-committee on ESBLs (2008 onwards)
  • Council of the British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2001-7), chairman of Grants Committee (from 2005-8), and member of Education Committee (1995-9)

International Committees and Advisory Groups

  • Chairman of the European Committee on Antimicrobial Sensitivity Testing (EUCAST) Sub-Committee on Molecular Testing (1998-2002)
  • Advisor and trainer for SEARO to the WHO Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Monitoring Programme (1997 onwards)


Geyer CN, Fowler RC, Johnson JR, Johnston B, Weissman SJ, Hawkey P and Hanson ND (2016) Evaluation of CTX-M steady-state mRNA, mRNA half-life and protein production in various STs of Escherichia coli. J Antimicrob Chemother 71(3):607-16

Wilson AP, Livermore DM, Otter JA, Warren RE, Jenks P, Enoch DA, Newsholme W, Oppenheim B, Leanord A, McNulty C, Tanner G, Bennett S, Cann M, Bostock J, Collins E, Peckitt S, Ritchie L, Fry C and Hawkey P (2016) Prevention and control of multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria: recommendations from a Joint Working Party. J Hosp Infect 92 Suppl 1:S1-S44

Quick J, Ashton P, Calus S, Chatt C, Gossain S, Hawker J, Nair S, Neal K, Nye K, Peters T, De Pinna E, Robinson E, Struthers K, Webber M, Catto A, Dallman TJ, Hawkey P and Loman NJ (2015) Rapid draft sequencing and real-time nanopore sequencing in a hospital outbreak of Salmonella. Genome Biol 16:114

Zhong YM, Liu WE, Liang XH, Li YM, Jian ZJ and Hawkey PM (2015) Emergence and spread of O16-ST131 and O25b-ST131 clones among faecal CTX-M-producing Escherichia coli in healthy individuals in Hunan Province, China. J Antimicrob Chemother 70(8):2223-7

Hawkey PM (2015) Multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria: a product of globalization. J Hosp Infect 89(4):241-7

Ironmonger D, Edeghere O, Bains A, Loy R, Woodford N and Hawkey PM (2015) Surveillance of antibiotic susceptibility of urinary tract pathogens for a population of 5.6 million over 4 years. J Antimicrob Chemother 70(6):1744-50

Amos GC, Gozzard E, Carter CE, Mead A, Bowes MJ, Hawkey PM, Zhang L, Singer AC, Gaze WH and Wellington EM (2015) Validated predictive modelling of the environmental resistome. ISME J 9(6):1467-76

Amos GC, Hawkey PM, Gaze WH and Wellington EM (2014) Waste water effluent contributes to the dissemination of CTX-M-15 in the natural environment. J Antimicrob Chemother 69(7):1785-91


Clinical and Public Health Bacteriology