Immunity, Infection and Inflammation

RCSI researchers seek to understand the molecular pathogenesis and epidemiology of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses and the host’s immune response to these infections.

Through this approach, we aim to improve the diagnosis and management of infections and identify new targets to prevent and treat them.

We also investigate male versus female effects underlying infection, immunity and inflammation and the mechanisms of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Managing and preventing infections and antimicrobial resistance

Our research in this area focuses specifically on the prevalence, epidemiology, pathogenesis and molecular characteristics of antibiotic resistant organisms that cause healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).

We investigate novel decontamination methods and their impact on reducing HCAI, and evaluate novel treatments to manage device-related infections and chronic wounds, such infected diabetic foot ulcers.

We also investigate the potential of rapid molecular methods e.g. real-time PCR and improved environmental sampling to detect hospital pathogens in the clinical environment and assess the impact this has on spread of HCAIs. These findings inform improvements in infection prevention control policy and antibiotic stewardship.

Identifying novel targets for the treatment of bloodstream infections

Research in this area focuses specifically on the cardiovascular response to infection (Gram positive and Gram negative) once it enters the bloodstream. We investigate novel molecular connections between bacteria and host cells (endothelial cells and platelets) using state-of-the-art 3D technologies involving real-time epifluorescent microscopy in bioreactors that mimic shear rates experienced in the human vasculature.

Using these techniques, we focus on molecular changes that lead to dysregulation of the host response through changes in the up-regulation and down-regulation of key signalling molecules that influence vessel function.

We also focus on genetic changes (permeant and transient) that drive the excessive and sustained immune response in infected cells via critical changes in the miRNA profile of host cells.

Improving our understanding of bone infections

Research in this area focuses on the development of novel 3D systems to improve our understanding of the cellular changes and spread of infection in bone. Using these 3D models, we investigate the molecular interactions that lead predominantly to Staphylococci induced bone loss and destruction, which contributes significantly to fracture incidence.

Knowledge of the host response to the bone infection using these more physiologically relevant 3D models is used to develop novel compounds for the treatment of the infection which is notoriously difficult to treat. We also focus on the use of CRISPR technology to knockdown key bacterial proteins that drive the uncontrolled immune response seen in osteomyelitis patients.

Innate immunity and inflammatory disease

Research in this area focuses on innate immune mechanisms that recognise the role infections play in the initiation and pathology of autoimmune diseases. We also look at how microRNAs are dysregulated in inflammatory disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, and how understanding these processes could help to develop new treatments for these conditions.

Understanding how our body clock controls the immune system

Research in this area focuses specifically on how our body clock – which is the 24-hour molecular timer within each one of our cells – controls the immune response. We have identified that immune cell function changes across the 24-hour cycle and that disruption of the molecular clock in innate immune cells leads to chronic inflammatory disease. We are determining the underlying molecular mechanisms to identify new targets for how we treat but also when we treat chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis.

Our Principal Investigators