Laboratory for Bacterial Evolution and Pathogenesis (LBEP)


Our research is focused on the evolution and pathogenesis of clinically important bacterial pathogens

The Fitzgerald group is focused on understanding the evolution and pathogenesis of clinically important species of bacteria. A priority is the major human and animal pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, in addition to other clinically relevant staphylococcal species. We are currently using a range of molecular and genomic tools to understand the evolutionary origin and the molecular basis of staphylococcal diseases of humans and livestock. A long-term goal has been examining how bacteria switch between different host-species using S. aureus as a model and this has led to understanding of the evolutionary processes and bacterial adaptations underpinning host-adaptation. We also have ongoing interests in the function of specific toxins and cell-wall associated proteins, particularly in the context of host-adaptation. More recently, we have started to investigate the interaction of S. aureus with innate immune cells from humans and animals including neutrophils and macrophages.

In addition to staphylococci, we also have a significant research interest in Legionella sp. associated with Legionnaires’ disease, a significant public health threat linked to man-made water systems. The main focus is exploring the evolution of the main pathogenic clones and how they have adapted to cause human infection.

Underpinning all of our research is the aim is to translate our findings into new diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic approaches to controlling infections. In particular, we are working in collaboration with industry to develop vaccines for diseases of animals caused by staphylococci.