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Research group

Infection

Infection research

We explore pathogens causing infectious diseases of global importance. Our research involves understanding how pathogens interact with their hosts and using this information to develop new vaccines, antimicrobials and diagnostics.

Part of Medicine

About

The group’s aims are broad within the remits of infection, immunology and inflammation. We seek to understand how pathogens causes infectious diseases and use this information to design new vaccines and diagnostic assays.

We are also engaged in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses adapt to the overuse of antibiotics and drugs to become more dangerous and intractable pathogens. Our areas of focus include respiratory diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, liver disease and fundamental studies into associated immunological processes. A particular strength is global outreach, with many researchers within the group sharing extensive international collaborations.     

Our main research areas include: 

  • Respiratory infections (principally viral and bacterial), asthma and COPD 
  • Meningitis, with strengths in epidemiology and a human challenge model  
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, notably chlamydia and gonorrhoea
  • Parasite infections
  • Development of vaccines and novel antimicrobials
  • Development of new rapid diagnostic platforms for infectious diseases
  • Development of ex vivo laboratory models to study infectious diseases
  • Molecular immunology 

People, projects, publications and PhDs

People

Dr Chris McCormick BSc, DPhil, PGCert

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Positive strand RNA virus replication
  • Viral proteases
  • Viral host pathogen interactions

Accepting applications from PhD students

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Professor Ian Clarke

Professor of Virology

Research interests

  • Transposon mutagenesis of Chlamydia species
  • Cell culture systems and replicons for human noroviruses
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Dr Jay Laver

Principal Research Fellow

Research interests

  • 1. Drugs in bugs: The main focus of my research is developing applications for genetically modified Neisseria lactamica, as a means to deliver molecules of biological importance to the upper respiratory mucosa of humans. My work into the use of this genetically modified commensal as an antigen delivery platform has shown it generates systemic and localised humoral responses (i.e. antibodies) and immunological memory against a specific, heterologous antigen during a controlled human infection model experiment (CHIME). The technology has a broad range of potential applications in the field of vaccine development and delivery, which I am exploring through collaborations with biotech companies specialising in recombinant antigen presentation. As part of the continued evolution of the NTT platform, I am interested in the development of new molecular tools. I utilise synthetic biology and reporter systems to generate new methods to control gene expression and create simplified and streamlined cloning systems in this commensal.
  • 2. Bugs as drugs: An interesting observation from previous CHIMEs is that Neisseria lactamica is able to exclude a closely related bacterial species, Neisseria meningitidis, from the nose and throat of people it colonises. Neisseria meningitidis is a pathbiont, and the causative agent of meningococcal disease. Colonisation of an individual’s nose and throat with the pathobiont is prerequisite for the onset of disease, which can be rapidly lethal. First displacing and then preventing the reacquisition of the meningococcus in the nose and throat can therefore disrupt a critical stage in the pathogenesis of meningococcal infection. The displacement of Neisseria meningitidis by Neisseria lactamica is rapid and non-discriminatory, insofar as it is not limited to any particular subgroup of the pathobiont. Therefore, it is plausible that controlled infection with normal, unmodified, so-called wild type Neisseria lactamica could have a positive impact on the incidence of meningococcal disease, especially in regions of sub-saharan Africa where there are still meningococcal epidemics. I have developed a freeze-dried preparation of Neisseria lactamica, the efficacy of colonisation with which has been tested both here in Southampton and at the Centre for Vaccine Development in Bamako, Mali in association with the Mucosal Pathogens Research Unit from University College London.

Accepting applications from PhD students

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Emeritus Professor John Heckels

Research interests

  • The structure and immunochemistry of the surface antigens of pathogenic Neisseria
  • The development of immunity to meningococcal meningitis and gonorrhoea
  • The identification and evaluation of potential vaccine candidates for prevention Neisseria infections
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Professor Myron Christodoulides

Professor of Bacteriology

Accepting applications from PhD students

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Mr Parwez Hossain MBChB PhD FHEA FRCOphth FRCS (Ed)

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Corneal Infection

Accepting applications from PhD students

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Professor Robert Read

Chair of Infectious Diseases
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Professor Saul Faust MBBS, FRCPCH, PhD, FHEA, OBE

Professor Paediatric Immunology & Infect
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Professor Stuart Clarke PhD FRCPath FFPH

Professor of M'biology and Public Health

Accepting applications from PhD students

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Professor Tristan Clark

Professor of Infectious Diseases
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