Institute of Dentistry

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Infection, Immunity and Inflammation

The Infection and Immunity Research Group aims to improve understanding of the biological mechanisms of oral health and of bacterial and immune mediated oral disease, thereby improving diagnosis, classification and treatment. It has two themes: Molecular Microbiology and Mucosal Immunology.

The Molecular Microbiology theme investigates:

  • Mechanisms and consequences of dysbiosis of the microbial populations of the mouth with particular reference to periodontal disease
  • The genetics, structure/function relationships and physiological properties of microbial virulence factors  particularly of the periodontal pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis.

The Mucosal Immunology theme encompasses basic science and translational research directed towards

  • Understanding the biology of immune systems operating at oral mucosal surfaces
  • The interaction of genetic and environmental factors on development of immune-mediated oral disease.

Research Programmes

Dysbiosis of the Oral Microbiome

Streptococcal diversity and pathogenesis

Oral Bacteria and Pregnancy Complications’

Innate Immune Mechanisms in the Oral Cavity

Development of novel antimicrobials

Proteases in microbial virulence

Bacterial glycoproteins

Horizontal gene transfer and pathogenicity islands

Role of cytotoxin intermedilysin

Role of Anginosus group streptococci (AGS) in chronic lung infections

Development of a self-disinfecting alginate dental impression material

Sjogren's syndrome

Programme in Mucosal Immunology

Human Desmoglein 3

Ref Highlights

Wade is a member of an international consortium which aims to characterise the human oral microbiome and develop methods to study previously unculturable organisms in this microbiota
Curtis has described the molecular structure and properties of the lipopolysaccharides of Porphyromonas gingivalis and developed the Keystone Pathogen Hypothesis which describes the role of low abundance pathogenic species in the conversion of the normally benign commensal microbiota into one capable of driving pathogenic outcomes. Primary research outputs (Nature Immunology, x2 J Bact) have been complemented by reviews in Nature Reviews in Microbiology, Cell Host & Microbe and Journal of Dental Research.
Allaker has described the use of nanobiology in developing novel antimicrobials and Whiley studies of the oral streptococci has lead to the characterisation of a novel toxin from S. intermedius and discovery of the key potential role of oral streptococci in modulating the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis.
Bergmeier has continued her studies of the immune response at mucosal surfaces particularly in relation to HIV vaccination strategies. Fortune has demonstrated the genomic instability of oral submucous fibrosis and established a role for desmosomal cadherin in epithelial cell proliferation. Tomlins and Fortune have developed novel imaging methodologies, including optical coherence tomography, as potential adjunctive techniques for the diagnosis of metaplasia in oral lesions in a variety of clinical conditions including Behçet's disease.
Translational science outcomes have been achieved by building on research outputs in the basic science and clinical pathogenesis of the mucosal immunology group. The establishment of a £15M National Centre of Excellence for Behçet’s Disease in 2012 at Barts Health NHS Trust led by Fortune, in collaboration with NHS Trusts in Liverpool and Birmingham, was a direct consequence of the development of critical mass in oral mucosal immunology research and clinical practice in the Institute of Dentistry.
The group includes 4 Early Career Research appointments:
• Gonzales-Marin who works with Allaker on the study of the connection between oral inflammatory disease and pregnancy complications;
• Payne who works with Curtis on on the periodontal microbiome;
• Seoudi who works with Fortune on Behçet’s disease research;
• Vartoukian who works with Wade on the oral microbiome


Professor Mike Curtis


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