Our research

Research themes in Edinburgh Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are caused by an extraordinarily wide range of pathogenic organisms, including not only viruses and bacteria, but also prions, protozoa, helminths, fungi and arthropods. To combat these pathogens, Edinburgh scientists are deploying a correspondingly broad set of approaches. 
These include studying:
  • the behaviour of diseases at the population level (epidemiology);
  • the evolution of the pathogen (genetics and evolutionary biology);
  • the immune response that develop to fight the pathogens and prevent disease (immunology);
  • the molecular basis of pathogen virulence (molecular cell biology)
  • the social contexts of infectious diseases and the impacts on control and treatment delivery (social science)
For pages with information about Edinburgh Infectious Diseases members organised alphabetically, by institution, organism of study, or research theme please follow the links.  Please see our Governance page for information about the structure and administration of our organisation. 
 
Nine cross-cutting themes below are common to most current research.  You can also learn about the work done by Edinburgh Infectious Diseases members in the videos by researchers active in each theme.  Details of all members working broadly in each theme are given here.

Click on the headings above to go to more information about each theme



Understanding how pathogens evade immune attack, how they modulate and modify host immunity, which modes of immune responsiveness are most effective at resolving infection, and and means of stimulating protective immunity through molecular vaccines. The pathogenesis of many infection-associated diseases (both acute and chronic inflammation for example) is highly immune-dependent, and research aims to cure both infections and their pathological consequences. 

Judi Allen - Biological Sciences from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.

 Rick Maizels talking about his research into worms and treatment for allergies
 

Social and Healthcare Dynamics

By definition infectious diseases exist in a social context.  The factors influencing how diseases are spread within communities, and how underlying cultural, social, and economic issues impact disease control and treatment delivery, provide rich opportubities for collaboration bwteen social, clinical and biological scientists in Edinburgh. 

Listen to Alice Street in the School of Social and Political Science talking about Rethinking Intrastructre for Global Health as part of the Our Changing World series of lectures.

Here Pete Kingsley from the Centre of African Studies explains INZI, a new social science research project exploring African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness.

In this video James Smith describes how his research focuses on understanding how we can best manage science and develop innovative technologies that will act as a catalyst to help alleviate diseases and poverty across the developing world.


Molecular and cellular analysis of virulence factors by which pathogens target their hosts; the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions and consequences in relation to pathogenesis, immune response and transmission.  This theme combines sophisticated biochemical and structural studies with systems biology approaches such as expression arrays and proteomics.

Alex Rowe - Biological Science from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.

Bernadette Dutia - Roslin Institute from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.



This theme emphasises quantitative approaches to understanding the pathogenesis and transmission of infectious diseases and involves epidemiology, genetics and evolution, and mathematical biology.  It includes the epidemiology of endemic and exotic pathogens, mathematical modelling of host-pathogen interactions, and the informatics of pathogen evolution.  This themes also investigating the epidemiology, disease burden and interactions of zoonotic pathogens - those that are transmitted between animals and humans. This research is analysing emergence of zoonotic diseases, quantifying their burden on populations and designing appropriate interventions, through strong collaborative links in tropical countries, in particular with sub-Saharan Africa.

Mark Woolhouse - Biological Science from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.



Analysing the evolutionary principles of pathogen biology, especially among those organisms with complex population structures and high levels of muatation and variation, with a view to predicted the outcome of different intervention strategies.  This theme is developing as a key area of evolutionary medicine, which examines the impact of both host and pathogen evolution upon clinical infectious diseases questions.

Tom Little - Biological Science from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.

Sam Brown - Biological Science from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.



High-throughput research which aims to map molecular networks (eg signalling cascades) within both pathogen and host cells which are mobilised or suppressed during the infectious process. Depending on the research question, this may focus on mRNA expression, protein modification or cellular activation, to generate interaction models that can be tested by fine-detail experiments in the laboratory.

Peter Ghazal - Division of Pathway Medicine from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.

Mark Blaxter - Biological Science from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.




There are regular informal and formal interactions with the clinical community working on infectious diseases, both in Edinburgh and in overseas countries, particularly in tropical environments. This interface is critical both to inform, and to prioritise, the most effective laboratory research to solve pressing global health problems in infectious diseases.

Sarah Howie - Inflammation Research from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.



Translational objectives are inherent in each of the major research themes; for example, improved diagnosis will emerge from the clearer definition of pathogen molecules and host biomarkers generated in infection; new vaccines are designed with field use in mind; new targets for drugs and other interventions are frequently emerging from studies on molecular pathways in pathogens, and the epidemiological analyses point to more effective means of controlling the spread of infections in the community.

Till Bachmann - Division of Pathway Medicine from Research in a Nutshell on Vimeo.


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