The subjects of their research include the tuberculosis , pneumonia, cholera and legionellosis bacilli. The department aims to improve understanding of how they live and to explain why and how they become pathogenic.
The scientists also examine the genomes of some yeasts (unicellular fungi). Yeasts are studied both for their own properties – particularly those responsible for diseases, such as Candida albicans, which causes candidiasis , or those used in bread-making – and also as models to help aid our understanding of human genetics.
All this research is carried out in conjunction with colleagues in other departments, especially the Departments of Microbiology, Mycology, Neuroscience and Parasitology.
Evolution of the genome and host–pathogen interactions
One main focus of the department's research is examining how diseases have gradually shaped our genome over many centuries. By looking into the evolution of infectious microbes and the selective pressures they have exerted on human genes over time, scientists can glean a wealth of useful information to help them understand innate immune responses for example.
The department's geneticists also investigate how the genomes of insects that are vectors of disease have changed and adapted over time. Interactions between humans, mosquitoes, and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria have an impact on each individual's genome. Improving our understanding of these interactions is vital in tackling diseases such as dengue, malaria and tuberculosis.
Finally, the department conducts fundamental research aimed at clarifying the workings of the genome and gene expression, especially how organisms control the way in which their genes are expressed.
This research makes use of experimental and/or IT-based approaches, and draws on new sequencing and genotyping technologies.