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Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Research Themes

The research environment of the Centre encompasses five broad areas of research, which cross-cut disciplinary and Departmental boundaries. Find out more about the themes:

  • Pathogen Biology and Evolution. Evolution is a key aspect of the biology of many pathogens, driving processes ranging from immune escape to changes in virulence. Pathogens exhibit remarkable abilities to out-manoeuvre therapeutic intervention. This outcome is driven by evolution, either as a direct response to intervention (e.g. the evolution of antibiotic resistance), or through long-term co-evolution generating host or parasite traits that interact with therapy in undesirable or unpredictable ways. To make progress, here at Cambridge our researchers are integrating the concepts and techniques of evolutionary biology with traditional approaches to immunology and pathogen biology. An interdisciplinary approach can inform control strategies, or even patient treatment, positioning us to meet the current and future challenges of controlling infectious diseases.
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions. Understanding the mechanisms of pathogenesis caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites plays a key role in understanding infectious diseases. Pathogenesis – literally how disease (pathos) begins (genesis) or develops –- is a broad, important area of research encompassing both basic and clinical sciences. In infectious diseases, pathogenesis commonly occurs as a consequence of complex interactions between an infecting pathogen and the immune system. In order to understand how a particular pathogen causes disease it is critical to determine how host immunity (including both the innate and acquired arms of the immune system) resists infections. Our researchers here at Cambridge are working advancing our understanding of the interactions between resident and invasive microbes and the immune system and the implications of these findings for human and animal health.
  • Infectious Disease Dynamics. Epidemiology and Mathematical Modelling provide vital mathematical and statistical tools to study the spatial spread of epidemics in populations. Mathematics and simulation are essential tools in infectious disease control, enabling decision-makers to explore control policies before implementing them, interpret trends, and predict emerging threats. Over recent years technological advances and worldwide efforts are speeding up developments towards better global surveillance for combating pandemics of emergent and re-emergent infectious diseases. Here at Cambridge our researchers, extending from medicine and molecular biology to computer science and applied mathematics, are teaming up to develop new models and applied tools for rapid assessment of potentially urgent situations.
  • Drugs and Vaccines. Vaccines and the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs are one of our most effective means for controlling infectious diseases. All vaccines rely on one simple principle: give the immune system a head start advantage over the pathogen by teaching it to recognise the pathogen before an actual infection occurs. The immune system then forms a “memory” of the pathogen and can build defences capable of eliminating it and its associated disease during a real infection. They are known to be the safest, most effective way to prevent infectious diseases, and they have enabled the worldwide eradication of many devastating diseases like polio and smallpox. However, vaccines capable of completely protecting against a pathogen as complex as the malaria parasite or TB have never been successfully created, and many logistical and societal challenges to vaccination delivery programmes exist. Here at Cambridge, our researchers are working across disciplines to fast track the scientific discoveries to illuminate fundamental aspects of immunity and responses to infection and examine vaccine delivery and societal challenges and that will enable us to beat these deadly pathogens.

  • Infectious Diseases Technology. Enabling innovation and access to health technologies remains a key strategy in combating infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The traditional approach to tackling infectious diseases of poverty has been a disease-centred one but now, to benefit effectively from innovative products and use the tools needed to beat such diseases, the approach must be systems and people centred. Here at Cambridge our researchers are investing in interdisciplinary collaboration to examine integration of health innovation within national innovation systems and products and tools which are translatable across government sectors and organization levels.