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Research Profile

I am a Professor in microbiology. My interests are focussed on the ecology and molecular biology of bacteriophages and their relationship with bacterial hosts; ranging from bacterial pathogens to environmentally important cyanobacteria; exploiting bacteriophages and phage-derived products as an alternative to treating antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

A highlight of my work to date was the sequencing and annotation of the first genome of a phage from the family Myoviridae that infects a cyanobacterium. This led to the startling discovery of photosynthesis genes within the viral genome. My follow-up work has included the sequencing of several other phage genomes and an analysis of their genetic diversity using a number of bioinformatic techniques. I have also characterised the expression of these genes using real-time PCR. I also have research projects of bacteriophages which infect other cyanobacteria. 

I am currently sequencing and annotating newly isolated cyanophages as well as establishing the function of key cyanophage genes using molecular biological and biochemical approaches.  The aim of this research is to link the function of genes back to the ecology of the organisms.  I am also investigating the potential to exploit unique enzymes found in cyanophage genomes.

In recent years I have become increasingly interested in the genetics of phages that infect human pathogens. These genomes may provide the key to treatment of diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I am collaborating in this field with the pioneers of medical phage research at the Sanger Centre, UK, Evergreen State College, Olympia, USA and the Eliava Institute of Tbilisi, Georgia. I am also on the advisory council of the PhageBiotics Foundation, and for the advisory council of the Canadian Network for Therapeutic Applications of Bacteriophages (CanTAB).

I have research collaborations with Dr Elizabeth Kutter, Evergreen State College, Olympia, USA;  Dr Ruth-Anne Sandaa, University of Bergen; Dr Pascale Boulanger, Universite de Paris-Sud; Professor Nicholas Mann and Dr Dave Scanlan at the University of Warwick; Dr Danish Malik, Dr Gilbert Shama and Dr John Anderson at the University of Loughborough, Professor Mike Barer, Professor Mark Carr, Dr Kumar Rajakumar, Dr Aras Kadioglu and Dr Paul Jenkins at the University of Leicester.

Current Lab Members

Research Associate and assistant

Dr Jinyu Shan (MRC funded New Investigators Award: Clostridium difficile phages)
Mr Peter Hickenbotham (Various cyanobacteriophage projects)

PhD students

Kate Hargreaves (MRC funded Environmental C. difficile strains and bacteriophages)
Janet Nale (Role of bacteriophages in C. difficile toxigenicity)
Krusha Patel (EPSRC funded through Danish Malik at the University of Loughborough: Factors contributing to the success of hospital strains of C. difficile)
Mohammed Almaghrabi (Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteriophages)

Societies and Meetings

I co-run the UK Viral Ecology Group with Andy Millard (University of Warwick).  The aim of VEG is to maintain our UK viral ecology research community by getting together once a year to discuss work, and in particular give students and post-docs an opportunity to discuss their work in an informal and friendly setting.  We also aim to provide a network of support and help for each other and to stimulate new ideas and forge collaborations.  Finally, we run practical work-shops to illustrate key techniques and methodologies.
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Contact Details

Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

Adrian Building
University Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3374
E Mail:

Head of Department
Professor Jacqui Shaw

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