Pathogens, parasites and commensals

Infections are the invasion of foreign organisms into the body. Understanding the immune system is our best protection against them.

Parasite immunology

Parasitic infection is ubiquitous in both humans and animals and affects billions of individuals globally.

Parasites present the immune system with a complex and dynamic antigenic challenge. Immunologists are equally challenged in trying to determine the mechanisms which underpin resistance and susceptibility to this fascinating group of pathogens.

We work with both protozoan parasites such as Plasmodium and Toxoplasma and metazoan parasites – the helminths or worms. We have one of the strongest groupings of experimental immunologists defining immunity to helminths across the world.

We work on all the major helminth groups including schistosomes, gastrointestinal nematodes, tissue dwelling nematodes and cestodes. We use well-defined model systems to provide mechanistic insight into immunoregulatory processes operating during parasitic infection in order to identify novel ways to ultimately control these pathogens.

Moreover, such model systems are key to the discovery of new pathways and processes involved in fundamental immunology.

We have extensive national and international collaborations. Working with colleagues in locations endemic for human parasitic disease enables us to explore translational aspects of our research. We pursue our discovery science through collaborations with other world-leading immunology groups.

Bacterial immunology

Trillions of bacteria live within our bodies and play an essential role in educating our immune system. However some bacteria cause severe infections, which is a major driver of mortality and morbidity globally.

The treatment of bacterial infections is becoming more difficult with the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics. This problem is largely driven by the widespread use and misuse of antibiotics.

We have a multidisciplinary approach to addressing these problems, combining expertise across clinical and scientific disciplines.

Through our collaborative work in bacterial immunology, we are gaining novel mechanistic insights into bacterial pathogenesis which can translate into clinical applications in vaccination, diagnostics, novel antimicrobials and immunomodulators.

Fungal immunology

Fungal diseases kill more than 2 million people every year.

The University is recognised as a centre of international excellence for fundamental and applied research into fungal diseases.

Through the synergistic efforts of more than 80 clinicians, specialist microbiologists and scientists we are working to:

  • understand and mitigate antifungal drug resistance;
  • characterise the mechanistic basis of invasive fungal disease;
  • find new antifungal drugs.




Professor Richard Grencis

Dr Elizabeth Mann (Deputy lead)

Principal investigators