My research focuses on bacterial pathogenesis and evolution. In particular, I am interested in the evolution of bacterial opportunistic pathogens, with a focus on understanding how these organisms transition from harmless commensals to harmful pathogens. I am also interested in the interactions between opportunistic pathogens and host microbiota, and in the role of microbiota components in protecting against the onset of infectious disease.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Bath in 2015, before completing my PhD in Microbiology at the University of Bristol in 2019. I then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford until taking up a lectureship position at Keele in 2024.

Research and scholarship

Virulence is a key driver of a pathogen’s ability to cause disease. It encompasses various aspects of infection, including initial colonisation of a host, evasion of the immune system and invasion of tissues and organs. My research started with a focus on the genetic basis of virulence factor production, specifically toxins, in the opportunistic pathogens Staphylococcus aureus (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14110-8) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000784). Both are medically important pathogens, causing a range of diseases from mild skin and upper respiratory tract infections to life threatening septicaemia and pneumonia. Using functional genomics, I identified novel genes which contribute to toxin production in these species.

Following this, I began studying the evolutionary dynamics of pathogen virulence, with a focus on how host microbiota might drive changes in virulence evolution. Using a C. elegans nematode worm model of invasive S. aureus infection, I have characterised how competitive interactions between S. aureus and a native host microbiota community affect pathogen virulence over evolutionary time.

My current work focuses on the transition of opportunistic pathogens from asymptomatic colonisers of the human nasopharynx to invasive pathogens. I am particularly interested in characterising in more detail the interactions between these opportunists and host microbiota communities, to better understand the context in which the transition to pathogenesis takes place.



Co-supervisor for PhD student: Samuel Greenrod (University of Oxford) 2022-2024
Co-supervisor for Masters student: Alexander Tchernev (University of Oxford) 2022-2023

School of Life Sciences,
Huxley Building,
Keele University,
Tel: +44 (0) 1782 734414