Infection and Immunity

Heat labile enterotoxin of E. coli (EtxB)

The Infection and Immunity research theme studies the mechanisms that cause and spread disease. From emerging infections, spread around the world by modern travel or by environmental change, to chronic inflammatory conditions that strain the resources of first-world economies to breaking point, research in this area has immediate relevance to diseases that affect us all.

Infection and Immunity draws together investigators from the Faculties of Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Medicine and Dentistry, Science and Engineering. Many of its investigators are based in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Clinical Sciences at South Bristol, but collaborations within the University extend widely and include the Departments of Social Medicine, Clinical Veterinary Sciences, Oral and Dental Science, Biochemistry and Engineering Mathematics.

Research covers four major areas:

  • Autoimmunity
    Autoimmunity is one of the three major causes of chronic disease in the developed world. Research in this area is closely tied to human diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, uveitis and inflammatory bowel disease. We study the basic mechanisms that cause these diseases and how our understanding of them can be translated into real-world applications, including immunotherapies and diagnostic approaches (and how they can be exploited to target cancer).
  • Microbial pathogenesis and antimicrobial resistance
    Microbial infections remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Understanding the molecular basis of interactions between microbes and host cells, and the mechanisms by which tissue damage occurs directly, or by adversely stimulating the immune system, is central to the development of next generation antimicrobial products. This work benefits from strong links with Bristol’s hospitals through the Bristol Centre for Antimicrobial Research and Evaluation (BCARE). Collaborations with the Department of Social Medicine pursue the epidemiology of infectious disease and the impact that vaccination and screening has on the course of these diseases.
  • Emerging and chronic viral diseases
    Viral diseases, such as the coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the flavivirus that causes dengue fever, form the focus of this research. Epstein-Barr virus, which is associated with cancers, and adenoviruses that interfere with cellular systems of the infected cell are also under investigation. Work is also carried out on the epidemiology of viral diseases centres on hepatitis and HIV infections in injecting drug users in the presence of modern antiviral therapies.
  • Mucosal immunology
    Research in mucosal immunology relates to bacterial vaccines, in particular pneumococcus and meningococcus, and clinical trials of vaccines and medicines in children. This has demonstrated an important role for the mucosal environment in the development of immunity to these common infections. Other work studies the effects of cholera-like enterotoxins, which are highly effective mucosal adjuvants triggering strong protective immunity.

Infection and immunity research at Bristol has resulted in several successful spin-out companies. Researchers have filed a large number of patents, worked with large pharmaceutical companies and small biotechs and taken bench ideas through the entire process of development, ethics and fundraising and through first into man studies. Researchers have a strong interest in the practical translation of their work and its importance in the treatment of human disease.