Since 1965, Achtman has founded four highly distinct areas of bacterial genetics: 1) bacterial conjugation involving the Escherichia coli F sex factor (1965-78), 2) E. coli neonatal meningitis (1979-86), 3) epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitis (1983-2000). Since 1998 he has dedicated himself to the population genetics and genomics of bacterial pathogens. In each area he made seminal discoveries, resulting in global recognition, and is one of the globally most prominent bacterial population geneticists. In recent years, he was one of three co-inventors of multilocus sequence typing and has been at the forefront of comparative population genomics. He elucidated the historical associations of Helicobacter pylori with ancient human migrations, ancient global routes of transmission of historical plague, and has introduced dramatic changes to the practice of epidemiological typing of Salmonella enterica. He plays a leading role in large, international networks of microbiologists, and interacts extensively with theoreticians, historians and anthropologists.
Honours: main prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Hygiene und Mikrobiologie, 2004; foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2014 and the Pettenkofer Prize, 2018.
Interest and expertise
Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology)
Health and human sciences
Evolutionary history, Microbial population genetics, Population structure of pathogenic bacteria, Comparative genomics