Genetics of Clostridium difficile: I was the first to develop methods for the genetic analysis of this important pathogen (in 1994). These methods are still in use by my research group and other workers around the world. My current work on C. difficile is aimed at determining the molecular basis for its ability to cause disease. It is essential to understand this if more effective methods for the treatment of C. difficile induced disease are to be developed.
Molecular biology of conjugative transposons: These are highly promiscuous gene transfer elements which are important in the spread of antibiotic resistance. I have a range of projects on these elements from epidemiology in model systems to understanding the mechanism of transfer of these elements at the molecular level. My research group is also developing these elements as tools for the genetic manipulation of different bacteria.
Metagenomics: This is a relatively new approach which aims to characterise all the genomes in a particular environmental niche. My group has begun an analysis of the metagenome of the oral cavity. As approximately half of the organisms in the oral cavity can not be cultured their contribution to health and disease is difficult to understand. Metagenomics is a tool that will allow us to begin to understand the role of these non-cultivable organisms. The (very) long term aim of this project is to characterise all the organisms in the oral cavity. It is also planned to investigate the metagenomes of other human sites such as the vagina and the gut.