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My research



Persistent bacterial infections are a major cause of human morbidity and mortality and are a substantial economic burden. Understanding how pathogens cause disease and devising novel methods for control and treatment are key issues in the face of rising antibiotic resistance and the limited availability of new drugs.

My main area of interest is focused around Pseudomonas aeruginosa and associated bacteria in chronic infections. P. aeruginosa is an impressive opportunistic pathogen that, as a species, displays immense diversity. It can be found in a wide range of environments and can cause a number of human and animal infections including respiratory, skin wound/burn, gastrointestinal, urinary tract, eye and ear infections. As a respiratory pathogen, P. aeruginosa is particularly problematic in cystic fibrosis patients. There are over 100,000 cystic fibrosis patients worldwide and even more with non-CF bronchiectasis. Infections are often lifelong and highly resistant to treatment.


There are various specific areas we currently aim to address through research:


To advance understanding of species diversity during infection using next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies.

The availability of NGS offers a timely approach to determine the impact of population structure in bacterial infection. Studying the complete bacterial population could provide us with an insight into previously unknown associations between bacteria and potentially inform treatment choices. Ultimately, this could both inform a personalised medicine approach in terms of patient management and identify targets for future study. 

Example lung microbiome from a cystic fibrosis patient.



Modelling multispecies interactions to advance our knowledge of how bacteria interact during infection and the importance of these interactions.

The ability to model infection, both in vivo and in vitro, is a vital research tool to understand bacterial infections. We aim to develop relevant models in order to study interactions of bacteria with P. aeruginosa in vitro and in vivo. A primary area of focus is studying complex multispecies biofilms to determine how they affect one another. As microbiologists, we have a fascination with pure, planktonic cultures and single colonies whereas in reality, particularly during chronic infection, microbial communities are often more diverse than this.

Bacterial biofilms are fascinating systems and I aim to determine how bacteria affect one another in terms of interspecies signalling, interactions with the immune system and changes in metabolism. Ultimately, I’m interested in how these interactions impact on bacterial virulence and disease progression.

P. aeruginosa growing as a free-floating biofilm.



Therapeutics.

I am acutely aware of the impending “Antibiotic Armageddon” and have a keen interest in novel therapeutics and factors that contribute to resistance and/or treatment failure. Therefore, as a group, we aim to address the problem of resistance and drug toxicity.

The development of novel antimicrobials, particularly those targeting Gram negative pathogens, is a key priority. Despite this, there are very few compounds under development. We, along with our collaborators, are interested in developing novel Pseudomonas inhibitors and test in a range of models including a novel in vivo model of infection (developed in collaboration with Prof A Kadioglu, Prof C Winstanley and Dr D Neill). In addition, we have recently been studying reservoirs of antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa with particular interest to polymyxin resistance in the veterinary setting in collaboration with researchers at IGH. This “One Health” approach is both exciting and a key strength of research within my Institute.

Bacteriophage from P. aeruginosa.


City of Liverpool skyline at night.


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