Upper GI and H. pylori
The group has a mixture of complementary expertise, comprising gastroenterologists, molecular microbiologists and mucosal immunologists. Our main research interest is the bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori, the main causative agent of peptic ulceration and gastric adenocarcinoma. The infection is very common, but disease occurs in only 10-15% of those colonised. We are investigating the circumstances leading to disease so that it may be possible to identify those at higher future risk of gastric cancer and target them for H. pylori eradication and treatment. Virulence determinants expressed by the bacteria and the host immune response are the main factors which affect disease risk.
Colonisation by H. pylori induces inflammation of the gastric mucosa, but this is usually counter-balanced by an anti-inflammatory immune response. We and others have shown a reduced incidence of allergy and autoimmunity in those with H. pylori. We are investigating the role of the suppressive immune response and the bacterial components which drive this.
1. Understanding how H. pylori virulence factors influence disease outcomes
We are focused on two main types of virulence secretion system. We are studying their molecular structures, how they influence gastric carcinogenesis and other outcomes of infection, what determines their expression levels, as well as their impact on colonisation and the host response.
2. Investigating the host response to H. pylori
We are developing multiplex methods based on peripheral blood and gastric tissue biopsy samples to identify host response and disease biomarkers. We are interested in both pro- and anti-inflammatory responses, investigating the abundance and functional characteristics of suppressive immune cell populations, and the role of immune mechanisms in protection against gastric and extra-gastric diseases.
3. Developing H. pylori diagnostic tests
We aim to develop non-invasive tests for H. pylori virulence and antibiotic resistance markers, and are investigating peripheral blood-based biomarkers in prognostic testing for disease risk.
Potential for collaborative projects:
We welcome collaborators who are interested in pre-cancer biomarkers, development of diagnostics and novel anti-inflammatory agents.
Key team members (PIs):
Professor John Atherton
Dr Karen Robinson
Dr Rob Delahay
Tel: +44 (0)115 8231090