Chair of Paediatric Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UNITED KINGDOM
I’m a Chair of Paediatric Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and work as a Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. I also have a research group at the UMC Utrecht, Netherlands. I have twenty years of experience in research related to pathogenesis and prevention of respiratory infections.
In 2009, we were among the first to enter a new era of science, with studying the ecosystem (microbiome) of the respiratory tract to understand respiratory health and disease, and from there try to identify novel ways for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infections. We performed multiple cross-sectional studies in children, adults and elderly, and started several intensive microbiome-driven follow-up studies including birth-cohort studies in healthy infants, premature infants, newborns with cystic fibrosis and newborns with suspected infections requiring broad-spectrum antibiotics. Following, we broadened our approach, analyzing the development of other ecological niches, like oral, and gut microbiome, and different aspect of the ecosystem such as the mycobiome and resistome, in relation to drivers and general health consequences as well. So far, we found an important ecological link between risk factors like mode of delivery and antibiotic use, and respiratory health. In line, we observed that that inflammation and severity of infections during well-known viral infections such as RSV appeared driven by co-signalling of the microbial ecosystem. We found evidence that more stable and defined microbiota in body niches are associated with protection against infection and resilience following. We also identified a potential window of healthy microbiome development early life that appears connected with consecutive health. We now intend to understand the mechanisms behind those acological associations, using in vitro and in vivo models. Furthermore, we are working on novel diagnostic tools and long term new strategies to prevent and/or treat acute and chronic respiratory infections. I have a current research portfolio funded by the Dutch government (NWO/ZonMW) Scottish government (CSO/NRS), UK Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, NIHR, GCRF, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.