Intestinal epithelial cells: at the interface of the microbiota and mucosal immunity

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Virginia Pedicord

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Intestinal infections affect billions of people worldwide and result in nearly 1.4 million deaths each year. Normal intestinal bacteria, known as the microbiota, can prevent pathogenic infections as demonstrated by increased susceptibility to infection when using antibiotics. However, the mechanisms of microbiota-mediated protection are not well characterised and therefore cannot be used to engineer effective therapies. I have recently shown that Enterococcus faecium, normally found at low abundance in the human gut, is able to reduce disease caused by the pathogens Salmonella and Clostridium difficile when administered as a probiotic. I found this out from cues from E. faecium that are able to activate the intestinal epithelium.

My research will use advanced approaches to dissect the mechanisms by which normal intestinal bacteria activate and prepare the intestinal epithelium and the vast network of underlying immune cells to fight infections.

Revealing the defense mechanisms triggered in the intestinal epithelium by the microbiota will enable better strategies to prevent and treat intestinal infections and inflammation.