Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Mark Stevens

Personal Chair of Microbial Pathogenesis

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Phone: +44 (0)131 651 9128

Current Research Interests

Studies the molecular basis of virulence of bacterial pathogens of veterinary and public health importance toward the design of control strategies.

Research Interests

Research in the Stevens Laboratory aims to improve food safety and enhance the health and welfare of farmed animals by defining the molecular basis of virulence of SalmonellaCampylobacter and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli. These agents collectively caused 76,377 laboratory-confirmed cases of acute diarrhoeal illness in humans in the UK in 2009 and infections may be complicated by life-threatening sequelae depending on strain- and host-specific factors.

Such infections are frequently acquired via the food chain and environment from farm animals. Control of the agents in reservoir hosts is expected to limit 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. 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. Award-winning work to reduce, refine or replace animals in research is also performed.

Knowledge accumulated in the study of food borne pathogens is being exploited to unravel the pathogenesis of other animal diseases, including avian colibacillosis and melioidosis.

Zoonoses Report from Defra


Mark Stevens explains ‘What is E. coli O157?’ for the BBC ‘Health Explained’ series:

Award-winning 3Rs research of the Stevens laboratory:


Administrative Roles

NC3Rs Grant Assessment Panel (2013-2016)

Chair-elect of the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) Prokaryote Division (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, Royal Veterinary College (2007-2011)

Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol

External examiner of 16 doctoral theses (at 2011)

Consultancies & peer review


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 PhD 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 together 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 unravel the basis of bacterial persistence and pathogenesis in food-producing animals.  

He was promoted four times in seven years at IAH, leading the Enteric Bacterial Pathogens Laboratory at Compton from 2005. He joined The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in January 2011.

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 600,000 human infections in the United Kingdom each year at a cost in excess of £1.5 billion.

Some forms of the bacteria also exert a substantial burden on the health and welfare of farmed animals, which in turn affects the ability to maintain a productive agriculture industry.

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.

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.

Research activities & awards

  1. External examiner of doctoral thesis of Diane Esson

    Activity: External academic engagementExternal Examiner or Assessor

  2. Panel member for band F-G science merit promotion

    Activity: External academic engagementExternal Examiner or Assessor

  3. Panel member for band E-F science merit promotion

    Activity: External academic engagementExternal Examiner or Assessor

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