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Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae) are two of the most important causes of invasive bacterial infection, and can result in a wide range of clinical disease including bloodstream, urinary tract, intra-abdominal and central nervous system infections. Infections caused by these organisms affect people of all ages worldwide, and have a significant impact on the disease burden in both community and hospital settings.

At present, these infections can often be treated effectively with antibiotics, but the development of resistance to many of the major classes of antibiotics currently used for treatment is of significant concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently listed antibiotic resistance as one of the top global threats to human health.

There are still many unanswered questions in relation to E. coli and K. pneumoniae bacteria. Particular research areas of interest in our group are:

  • how these bacteria cause infection
  • how they develop antibiotic resistance
  • how antibiotic resistance can be transmitted amongst members of the same bacterial species and between species
  • what contribution humans, animals, and the environment have in facilitating the development of antibiotic resistance
  • what impact global transmission of antibiotic-resistant strains has on infections caused in the UK
  • whether we can use sequencing in a clinical setting to diagnose infections caused by these organisms and identify the best antibiotics to use for treatment more quickly 

Our work

Our research group is using whole genome sequencing technology to determine the genetic code that makes up these bacteria, and can use this information to begin to answer key questions in relation to their patterns of evolution and spread, with a particular focus on understanding antibiotic resistance and what makes some types of E. coli or K. pneumoniae more likely to cause infection (virulence). This knowledge will help us develop prediction systems for patterns of spread and development, and can be used to inform infection control interventions which will help in the management of individual patients, as well at the wider public health level.

Major collaborators outside of the group:

  • Prof Nick Day – Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Prof James Johnson – University of Minnesota, USA
  • Dr Amy Mathers and Prof Costi Sifri – University of Virginia, USA
  • Dr Michael Mulvey - Chief, Antimicrobial Resistance and Nosocomial Infections, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Dr Paul Newton and Dr David Dance - Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration, Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Prof Samir Saha, Bangladesh
  • Dr Paul Turner – Cambodia-Oxford-Mahidol Research Programme, Siem Reap, Cambodia