Helen Leggett

Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellow, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK

I am interested in why we see such huge variation in the amount of harm (virulence) parasites cause their hosts. For example, why do some parasites such as Bacillus cereus cause humans mild nausea and diarrhoea for 24-48 hours, when others such as B. Anthracis (anthrax) kill 90-100% of their hosts often within 48 hours? My research focuses on a number of key issues ranging from infections with multiple parasites, the spatial structure of host-parasite interactions, and the role of the host intestinal microbiota.

I am currently working on the natural host-parasite interaction between Caenorhabditis elegans nematode worms, bacteria and bacteriophage (phage) as a model system for host-bacteria-virus interactions. I am interested in understanding the relationship between within host parasite growth and its effect on virulence, together with investigating the importance of parasite competition within hosts versus parasite transmission between hosts. I am also interested in understanding if and how bacteria interact with other components of the gut microbiota (especially bacteria and phage), since for any parasite that infects hosts though the gut, their growth is impacted by these competitor microbes and natural enemies.

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