Work in the lab falls under the following broad headers. The distinction in the lab is not necessarily that clear as some projects fall under multiple headers.

Molecular Parasitology
Parasites are still affecting many people on our planet, mainly in developing nations. We are studying, mainly at a fundamental level, how parasites function at a molecular level. Several Ph.D. projects focus on understanding the intestinal parasite Entamoeba which is the third most common death caused by parasites. We are particularly interested in how this parasite makes cysts. This work follows on our comparative transcriptomics work to understand encystation in Entamoeba (Scientific Reports (2017) 7, 12854). As part of an international team, we were part of sequencing the genome of the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowlerii (BioRxiv (2020) Although rare, this parasite has a near 100% death rate and we hope our genome studies will help identify possible drug targets. It is not only humans that are affected by parasites as animals are affected too. In the case of livestock, this affects humans due to their effect on food security. One of our projects focuses at understanding drug action in the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica. Together with Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) in the UK we sequenced genomes from several genomes of Aphanomyces species, causative agents of two notifiable diseases affecting fisheries and aquaculture. Our genome work has resulted in better diagnostics for crayfish plague, an infectious disease that is wiping out European crayfish (Journal of Invertebrate Pathology (2018) 156, 6-13) Other aquaculture work with Cefas is a funded BBSRC/NERC project to understand drug targets in the parasite that causes white spot disease and a major problem in the salmonid industry.

Host-Microbe Interactions
How microbes interact with their hosts plays an important role in human and animal health. Many studies have shown the beneficial effect of microbes of the gut on human health. We recently published a study that sheds light on how a very common gut microbe might interact with its human host (see here). Part of our research focuses on the role of microbes play in human health and nutrition. We work with Professor Andy Jones (Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK) on a BBSRC funded project on the role the oral microbiome plays in mobilising nutritional nitrate and healthy ageing (Free Radic. Biol. Med. (2018) 124, 21-30). Together with Dr Jo Bowtell (also Sports and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK) we have studied the effect of cherries on human health and the gut microbiome with a Cherry Marketing Institute grant (Nutrients (2019) 11, 1063). It is not only human health we are interested in. Together with collaborators from the National Lobster Hatchery in the UK and the British Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) we studied the effect of the gut microbiome on lobster health. Our work led to the first discovery of a lobster parasite in Europe (Journal of Invertebrate Pathology (2018) 154, 109-116). We also work with Professor Michael Lee at Rothamsted, UK, on a NERC funded project and a BBSRC funded PhD project on how microbes cycle on a whole farm in order to understand their role in ruminant nutrition. An exciting new project here in Norway is with Professor Emiel Janssen and Dr Tore Grimstad from the Academic Hospital in Stavanger. We will study the role of the whole gut microbiome on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Mitochondrial adaptations to anoxia
Mitochondria are linked to oxygen via oxidative phosphorylation. However, how do anaerobic eukaryotes deal with the lack of oxygen? Almost every branch of eukaryotic life has (strict) anaerobic members. Research focuses on biochemical adaptations to life in the absence of oxygen, in particular mitochondrial evolution. This work featured in several high impact publications (Nature (2003) 426, 172-176Current Biology (2008) 18, 580-585, Current Biology (2014) 24, 1176-1186 and PLoS Biology (2017) 15(9) e2003769) and included major human pathogens such as Giardia intestinalis, Entamoeba histolytica and Blastocystis. We hope that understanding their unusual biochemistry might lead to new drug targets.