Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Mark Stevens

Personal Chair of Microbial Pathogenesis

Profile photo

Phone: +44 (0)131 651 9128

Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

Area of Expertise

Research expertiseAnimal & zoonotic diseases, Bacterial pathogenesis

Research Interests

Research in the Stevens laboratory aims to improve food safety and enhance the health and welfare of farmed animals by defining the role of host and bacterial factors during Salmonella, Campylobacter and Escherichia coli infections. These agents have been estimated to collectively cause 174 million cases of acute diarrhoeal illness in humans and 80,000 deaths worldwide each year and infections can be complicated by life-threatening sequelae. Such infections are frequently acquired via the food chain and environment from farm animals and control of the agents in reservoir hosts is expected to reduce the incidence of human disease.

Toward this aim, a mix of fundamental, strategic and applied projects exploit knowledge of the role of bacterial and host factors in pathogenesis to develop and evaluate methods of disease control. His research is conducted at all levels from molecules to target animals and provides insights that cannot be obtained in surrogate rodent- or cell-based assays. Current emphasis is placed on identifying bacterial virulence factors and their mode of action, understanding the genetic architecture of host resistance to guide selective breeding, evaluating novel vaccines and studying the dynamics of transfer of antimicrobial resistance. Award-winning work to reduce, refine or replace animals in research is also performed.

 

Websites

Mark Stevens explains ‘What is E. coli O157?’ for the BBC ‘Health Explained’ series:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8649910.stm

Award-winning 3Rs research of the Stevens laboratory:
http://www.intervet.com/news/2007-06-29-prof.-mark-stevens-honored-with-dieter-luetticken-award.aspx

http://www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk/press_release/2007/MStevensAward_Aug07.htm

Administrative Roles

NC3Rs Grant Assessment Panel (2013-2016)

Chair of the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) Prokaryote Division (2013-2015) and previously Chair-Elect (2011-2013).

Member of the SGM Prokaryote Division Infectious Diseases theme (2008-2011)

Member of the SGM Cells & Cell Surfaces Committee (2003-2006)

Editor of Microbiology (2010-2015)

Associate Editor of Microbiology (2004-2010)

External examiner of B.Vet.Med. year 3 at the Royal Veterinary College (2007-2011), M.Sc Veterinary Science at the UNiversity of Liverpool (2011-2015), MRes in Biosciences at Cardiff University (2015-2018) and BVMSci at the University of Surrey (2016-2019).

Member of Research Oversight Committee for Genome Quebec (2016-2020).

Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol and Visiting Scholar at Khon Kaen & Mahidol Universities, Thailand.

External examiner of 38 doctoral theses (at 2017)

Consultancies & peer review

Biography

Mark Stevens obtained a first class honours degree in Microbiology & Virology at the University of Warwick in 1992 before undertaking doctoral studies with Prof. Ian Roberts at the University of Leicester. He obtained his Ph. D in 1996 on transcriptional control of capsule expression in E. coli associated with neonatal meningitis.

His initial postdoctoral research with Prof. Wendy Barclay at the University of Reading focused on transcription and replication of the influenza B virus genome and nucleoprotein trafficking. 

He joined the Institute for Animal Health in 1999 to analyse the role of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli genes in intestinal colonisation of cattle with Dr Tim Wallis. He extended this research in the years to follow, developing interests in the molecular basis of virulence of SalmonellaCampylobacterBurkholderia and avian pathogenic E. coli.

He has used award-winning genetic, surgical, ex vivo and whole-animal approaches to study pathogenes of veterinary and public health importance. In particular, he has focused on the bacterial and host factors that influence persistence, pathogenesis and protection in food-producing animals.  

He led the Enteric Bacterial Pathogens Laboratory at Compton from 2005 and joined The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in January 2011 as a Reader.

He was awarded a Personal Chair in Microbial Pathogenesis in 2011 and became Research Director of the Institute in 2015. In this role he coordinated submission of proposals to renew strategic investment from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, leading to the award of £29.3M for research and infrastructure at Roslin for 2017-2022.

My research in a nutshell

SalmonellaCampylobacter and E. coli O157 are bacteria that cause severe diarrhoea in humans. Infections often occur following contact with food-producing animals or their products. Campylobacter and Salmonella are mostly associated with poultry (for example chickens and turkeys), whereas E. coli O157:H7 tends to be acquired from cows and sheep. On rare occasions, infections in humans can involve life-threatening complications. Together, these bacteria are estimated to cause over 500,000 human infections in the United Kingdom each year at a recurring cost in excess of £1 billion.

Some forms of the bacteria also exert a substantial burden on the health and welfare of farmed animals, leading to losses in production.

We aim to understand how these bacteria colonise their farm animal hosts and produce disease. Armed with this information, we design and test methods to control the bacteria in farm animals with the long-term aim of improving the safety and supply of food.

In addition, we seek to understand host factors that contribute to resistance, both to guide selective breeding of more resilient animals and to devise more effective vaccines.

Prior to becoming a Roslin Institute scientist, I was based at the BBSRC's Institute for Animal Health. Whilst there I was involved in the production of a short film about E. coli O157 that is available on the BBC News website.

Current Research Interests

Salmonella, Campylobacter and Escherichia coli infections in farm animals, with emphasis on the bacterial and host factors that influence persistence, pathogenesis and protection.

Research activities & awards

  1. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

    Activity: Awards and AccoladesElection to learned society

  2. Invited seminar

    Activity: External academic engagementInvited talk

  3. Awarded the 2017 Avian Pathology lecture

    Activity: Awards and AccoladesPrize (including medals and awards)

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