Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Infection and immunity

The Infection and Immunity Group research interactions between pathogenic microbes and their human, insect or plant hosts with a focus on molecular mechanisms of immune evasion, epidemiology of transmission during disease outbreak, evolution of pathogenicity and host populations. The work is important for public health and food security.

Our work involves comparing the co-evolutionary and molecular processes involved in pathogenesis and in the innate immune responses of human, animal and plant host systems. The exploitation of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) data is increasingly becoming a focus of our work, particularly with respect to human pathogens. For example, we are developing genome-wide association studies (GWAS) approaches for establishing the genetic basis for virulence phenotypes in MRSA. We also have a strong interest in molecular epidemiology and microevolutionary dynamics for MRSA and Bordetella pertussis, along with the molecular aspects of immune evasion. The Bordetella work also exploits genome sequences to elucidate metabolic pathways and improve on culturing techniques. We also have a strong interest in fungal pathogens of plants and humans, which focuses on the elucidation of regulatory networks and the spatial dynamics of populations. Research on bacterial and fungal plant pathogens focuses on world crop diseases of major commercial relevance. We also have an interest in commercially important animal diseases, and in particular bacterial pathogens impacting on aquaculture.

Research areas

3D scan of a bee-hive for understanding the role of honey storage in disease transmission

  • Molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genomics (EF, AP)
  • Genome-wide Association studies and regulatory networks (RM, NP)
  • Inter-species variation in metabolic pathways (AP)
  • Immune evasion and pathogenicity (JvdE, SB, RM, VC)
  • Regulatory networks and complexity in pathogenic fungi (SD)
  • Biogeography of pathogenic fungi (DH)
  • Recombination and disease tolerance in insects (NP)
  • Disease transmission in insects (EF, NP)
  • Pathogenicity of plant pathogens (RC, VC)
  • Signal transduction and antibiotic resistance (SG)


There are opportunities for postgraduate research throughout our group. Interested students are encouraged to contact academic staff directly or check our PhD projects. For more general information on postgraduate study, please visit the Faculty of Science Graduate School.