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Honorary Staff, UCL

I did the basic science tripos at Cambridge and then I studied clinical medicine at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School in London. Once clinically registered I turned to research in immunology. At first I worked on the immunopathology of tuberculosis, but I gradually shifted towards an interest in the rapid increases in chronic inflammatory disorders (such as inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, and allergies) in high-income settings, particularly urban ones. The simultaneous rapid increases in these disorders must be due mostly to environmental factors, and I have concentrated on the evidence that changing (and falling) microbial exposures are leading to defective regulation of the immune system. The adaptive immune system, like the brain, is a learning system, and without the inputs that it evolved to expect, it does not function correctly.

A more recent and increasingly dominant interest is the increase in psychiatric disorders, particularly depression, that accompanies the more obviously inflammatory disorders listed above. This work is performed in collaboration with Chris Lowry (Neuroscientist, Boulder CO), and Chuck Raison (psychiatrist, University of Wisconsin-Madison). The role of poorly controlled inflammation in many psychiatric disorders is an area of rapid advance.

Finally, I recently introduced the concept that part of the clear health benefit of exposure to green space, animals and the natural world is attributable to exposure to microbial biodiversity, rather than only to psychological factors, sunlight and exercise. We can now consider exposure to microbial biodiversity as another "ecosystem service" that is essential for human health.

About 300 of my publications are listed in pubmed here


  • –present
    Honorary Staff, UCL