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Microbes in Health and Disease

Investigating microbial interactions in human hosts.

Microbes are the most abundant and diverse organisms on earth. They are capable of occupying a plethora of ecological niches. The human body is a collection of distinct environments, where commensal and pathogenic organisms interact in unique ways to benefit health or cause disease. 

We aim to understand the molecular basis of these interactions, with particular focus on: 

  • how gut bacteria breakdown dietary fibre
  • structure, function and regulation of diverse protein secretion systems
  • competition between commensals and pathogens for host colonisation
  • microbe-host interaction
  • virulence determinants in prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogenic microbes
  • how pathogens regulate gene expression
  • how bacteria develop antimicrobial resistance
  • nutrient transporters and symbiosis

Research Impact

Our work directly relates to real-world problems in infectious diseases, gut health and antimicrobial resistance by investigating the fundamental basis of diverse host-microbe interactions.   

Our research builds on the strong reputation of basic microbiological research at Newcastle. Members of our theme have secured funding and PhD studentships from major sources including:

  • Wellcome Trust
  • MRC
  • UKRI
  • Royal Society
  • Academy of Medical Sciences
  • The Lister Institute

Research Areas

Our research is focused on studying the basis of host-microbe interactions. We study the mechanisms that pathogenic and commensal microbes use to occupy diverse host niches. We aim to exploit our discoveries for the development of novel anti-infectives, and we also study how microbes develop resistance to existing antibiotics. Through these approaches we are tackling the global problem of antimicrobial resistance. 


Our research is highly interdisciplinary and we work closely with other themes including:

We aim to build on present Newcastle hospitals NHS trust collaborations including urology and gastroenterology, and also work to foster further local partnerships with our clinical colleagues. 


Research Culture

We provide a dynamic and supportive environment for all our members across all career stages. We provide mentorship and help with grant applications and paper submissions. We are active participants in the Biosciences Institute early career mentoring programme led by theme member Jan Quinn. We assist our ECRs with fellowship choices, applications, and interview preparation. We have PGR and post-doc leads to ensure that our ECR views are well represented. 
ECR Lead: Henrik Strahl
PGR Lead: Maisie Palmer
Post-doc Lead: Felicity Alcock

We are committed to Equality Diversity and Inclusion and promote EDI practices in all that we do. This includes family-friendly flexible working arrangements and family-friendly meeting times. 
EDI Leads: Katharina Trunk and Javier Abellon-Ruiz

We host a weekly seminar series to allow members to share their research progress in an informal and supportive setting. Postgraduate students, researchers and technicians are all encouraged to take part.

We are committed to engaging with the next generation of microbiologists and work alongside the School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences and the FMS Graduate School to provide research-led teaching in microbiology and host-pathogen interactions.   
Education Lead: Judith Hall