The Tropical Immunology group research uses expertise in microbiology and immunology to drive understanding of how people respond to infections and vaccines. We study COVID-19, melioidosis, scrub typhus and tuberculosis, and are particularly interested in vaccine responses in people in low- and middle-income countries with diabetes, older age and immunocompromise.
Led by Professor Susanna Dunachie, the Tropical Immunology lab focusses on the theme “Vaccines for the Vulnerable”. We address key questions in infection, immunology and vaccinology, in order to advance vaccine discovery for bacterial disease and COVID-19. The group aims to further understanding of the role of T cells in controlling infection and impaired immunity in people living with type II diabetes, with a focus in particular on the intracellular bacterial infections melioidosis, scrub typhus and tuberculosis, as well as COVID-19. Based at the Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, the Tropical Immunology group was established in 2015.
Specific areas of interest include melioidosis, COVID-19 and Immunometabolism
Melioidosis is a neglected tropical disease caused by the Gram negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. The Tropical Immunology group has been working to understand immune responses in melioidosis since its founding in 2015 and is currently setting up a phase I clinical study for a melioidosis candidate vaccine. A second study ‘MeVa’ explores attitudes to vaccines, melioidosis and clinical trials in a rural province of Thailand with a high incidence of melioidosis.
The Tropical Immunology group merged with four other laboratories in Oxford to tackle T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Since 2020 the group has made contributions to the UK PITCH consortium, OCTAVE study and VIBRANT study. These projects examine immune response to the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, vaccine responses in immunocompromised patients, and clinical and immune factors which predispose to breakthrough COVID-19 infections.
Diabetes is on the rise worldwide and is a risk factor for a number of globally significant infections. Limiting the impact of rising rates of diabetes on deaths from infectious diseases will require novel therapeutics and vaccines. Better understanding of how metabolic dysfunction impairs immunity in people with Type 2 diabetes will support the development of treatments and approaches which are tailored to be effective in this population.