Faculty Programme Overview:
We are focusing our research around the biology of intestinal bacterial infections, with a strong emphasis on invasive Salmonella disease. We work closely with other Faculty Groups in this and other Programmes of the Sanger Institute and have generated information on the genome sequences of a number of different Salmonella species or serovars including Bongori, Typhi, Typhimurium, Enteritidis, Gallinarum, Hadar, Infantis, Senftenberg and Paratyphi A that cause potentially lethal diseases such as typhoid and salmonella food poisoning. With Dr Trevor Lawley's Faculty Group, we have also determined the phylogenetic structure of C. difficile. We are using the information to investigate, at the genetic level, what makes different species of bacteria more potent (or virulent), in terms of their ability to cause disease, than others. To complement this research we are creating 'libraries' of pathogen strains that have single genes disabled in order to investigate their (the genes') functions and effects on virulence.
We are also undertaking an analysis of microbial population structure in collaboration with Dr Mark Achtman at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, and Dr Stephen Baker at the Wellcome Unit in Ho Chi Minh City. We are concentrating efforts on Salmonella Typhi, which causes typhoid, and C. difficile, a common cause of infection in hospitals but have projects on other pathogens including Vibrio cholerae. We use DNA sequencing and gene-functionality based approaches, and exploit this information for biological experimentation. Another key study involves the analysis of the genome of S. typhimurium, responsible for invasive bacterial disease throughout Africa. This is run in collaboration with Dr Sam Kariuki in Nairobi and the Wellcome Unit in Blantyre, Malawi.
Mouse genetic infection susceptibility project (Deputy Head, Dr Simon Clare):
We run a mouse genetics project in which mice with an artificially disabled gene are challenged with certain pathogens. The aim is to identify mammalian genes that contribute to controlling susceptibility to infection. The main infectious agents used in this screen are currently S. typhimurium and Citrobacter rodentium, although other pathogens can be exploited to investigate genetic effects in detail.