Campylobacter research

Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli are a leading cause of human gastroenteritis globally.The impact of these bacteria is considerable: for example, in the UK alone they are the most common bacterial cause of gastroenteritis, with the annual cost estimated to be £50-500 million.  They cause a range of syndromes with neuropathies among the most serious.   Consequently, reducing the disease burden is an international public health priority.  Despite their importance as human pathogens, Campylobacter are widely distributed as gastrointestinal commensals of many farmed and wild animals and birds, with human infection usually caused by the consumption of contaminated food, particularly chicken.

 

Previous research

Our group has been involved in Campylobacter research since 1999 when we developed the multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for C. jejuni and C. coli.  This provided the first effective means of investigating the molecular epidemiology of these pathogens on a large scale.  Research carried out in our group has developed to address basic science questions on the evolution and population biology of Campylobacter in farmed and wild animals.  Translational research based on our findings have enabled the attribution of human infection to animal sources, providing a basis for monitoring interventions intended to control disease.  These approaches have also permitted global comparisons of disease-associated genotypes, seasonal analyses of human disease, and the investigation of antimicrobial resistance.  We have been continually committed to making our data publicly available via the Campylobacter PubMLST database and facilitating other groups in sharing data.

 

Current research

Group members are investigating themes in Campylobacter research that reflect our diverse interests and collaborations.  We have been building on past work, including the extension of the gene-by-gene approach to whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data.  Farm-based work is using automated assessment of chicken welfare to look for correlations between welfare and colonisation with Campylobacter and other pathogens of human and veterinary interest.  Surveillance of human disease isolates from Oxfordshire has been ongoing since 2003. Priorities in this work include: analyses of long terms trends in disease, for which this dataset provides unique opportunities; the genetics of antimicrobial resistance; and ongoing monitoring for evidence of changes in sources of human infection over time, including the impact of interventions.  We are also interested in differences in the epidemiology of Campylobacter from middle- and low-income countries with current projects focussing on South Africa.  The translational focus of our research includes working with national public health bodies in England, Europe and the US to implement our approaches in routine public health practice.  The group continues to work on mapping out the population genetics of Campylobacter in different host species, and future work is expected to include development of WGS-based approaches to attribution.

 

Team members

Alison Cody, Frances Colles, Noel McCarthy, Helen Wimalarathna, and Melissa Jansen van Rensburg are our group members working on Campylobacter.  For more detailed information on our research, please see our publications.

 

Collaborators

Kate Dingle (University of Oxford)

Marian Dawkins (University of Oxford)

Adrian Smith (University of Oxford)

Sam Sheppard (Swansea University, UK)

Ken Forbes and Norval Strachan (University of Aberdeen, UK)

Sheila McIntyre (University of Reading, UK)

Jonas Waldenström (Linnaeus University, Sweden)

Mark Nicol (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Al Lastovica, Laeeqa Basardien and Pieter Gouws (University of the Western Cape, South Africa)

Linda Bester (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Food Animal Initiative

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)

Public Health England

Oxford University Hospitals Trust