Understanding bacterial host adaptation to combat infectious disease


  • Prof Ross Fitzgerald

    University of Edinburgh

  • Prof David Hume

    University of Edinburgh

  • Prof Jose Penades

    University of Glasgow

  • Prof Manfred Auer

    University of Edinburgh

Project summary

The increasing levels of antibiotic resistance are a global concern for both human and animal health and food security. Accordingly, alternatives to antibiotics are required for the control of human and livestock infections. Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen responsible for hospital and community-associated infections of humans including skin and soft tissue infections, necrotising pneumonia and infective endocarditis. S. aureus is also an economically important pathogen among livestock, responsible for mastitis in dairy cows, sheep and goats, and joint infections causing lameness in poultry. In addition, farmed pigs are a reservoir for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus which has the capacity to transmit to humans.

Our previous work has identified that S. aureus has undergone numerous host-switching events during its evolutionary history and that successful host switches require bacterial adaptation to the new host. The project will involve a comprehensive examination of the genetic basis for host adaptation in S. aureus and the characterisation of the adaptive mechanisms required to evade the innate immune response of different host species.

Host/pathogen interactions that are identified to be important for host-specific pathogenesis will be explored for their potential as novel therapeutics for controlling infections in humans and livestock.