Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Dates: Apr 2015-Apr 2020
Summary: My group are interested in host-pathogen interactions and, in particular, in understanding how some pathogens are able to subvert the innate immune system. Most of our work focuses on phagocytic cells, which some microorganisms are able to use as a ‘safe house’ within which to replicate. We try and understand how such pathogens can survive inside this hostile environment and the effect this intracellular reservoir has on disease progression.
The major focus of our group is on systemic infections by fungi and other eukaryotes. In particular we have worked extensively on cryptococcosis, a disease that typically, although not exclusively, affects immunocompromised patients. Several years ago we discovered a novel escape process termed vomocytosis that the pathogen uses to exit from phagocytic cells and we are currently investigating the underlying cell biology of this phenomenon. We are also interested in the genetic changes that drive hypervirulent outbreaks of cryptococcosis and what the cellular consequences are of such changes. We have recently completed an extensive investigation of how hypervirulence moves between different fungal populations and are now working on the molecular impact that these traits have. In addition, we have recently started to investigate the interaction of the innate immune system with two groups of pathogens that infect patients with major trauma wounds; filamentous fungi such as Scedosporium and Fusarium species, and the unusual achlorphyllous alga, Prototheca.