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Personal profile

Biography

Kathryn Else is a Professor of Immunology in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Kathryn obtained a first class honours degree in Zoology in 1985 at the University of Nottingham. She was awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in 1986 and completed her PhD, also at the University of Nottingham, in 1989 focussing on aspects of immunity to intestinal nematode parasites. She continued to pursue her interest in parasite immunology at the University of Manchester, first as an MRC post-doctoral training fellow (1989) then a Wellcome Trust Fellow (1992) before becoming a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science in 1995. She became a Senior Lecturer in 2007 and Professor of Immunology in 2009.

Kathryn has published extensively in the field of immunity to infection and has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC and MRC. Kathryn leads large research group and has successfully supervised through to completion over 20 PhD students.  

Research interests

I have a long-standing interest in the cellular immune responses to gastrointestinal dwelling nematode parasites in particular the mechanisms of immunity to the whipworm Trichuris. The parasitic nematode T. trichiura, infects 465 million people worldwide, primarily in low and low-to-middle income countries, resulting in disability, reduced worker productivity and poor child development. Trichuriasis is a classical disease of poverty and in endemic communities; prevalence can be above 90%, with children bearing the highest parasite burdens.

My research focuses on the mechanisms by which protective immunity is mediated and how antigen-driven inflammatory damage caused by infection is resolved. We are particularly interested in the cellular events which occur locally at the site of infection, the intestinal tract, and understanding the drivers of immune variation at gut barrier sites. The latter interest embraces longitudinal intervention studies using a wild mouse population on the Isle of May enabling us to ask immunological questions in a “real-world” context. My current research also focuses on exploring methods to control Trichuris infections in man, including novel drug discovery, innovative methods to break the life cycle, and vaccine development projects.

Overview

Infections with gut-dwelling parasitic worms are extraordinarily common. They cause feelings of ill health and represent a significant cost to society. Indeed, worm infections are one of the most significant factors that trap developing countries into poverty. Most infections are long term, lasting for years. During this time the parasitic worms damage the gut. The gut becomes inflamed and cells of the immune system enter the damaged tissue from the bloodstream. It is vital that mechanisms are in place to both limit the damage response and repair the damage when the infection has gone. My research aims to understand how damage to the gut is regulated and resolved, to understand how immune responses protect against gut dwelling worms and to explore methods to control Trichuris infections via novel drug discovery and vaccine development.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute

Keywords

  • Immunology
  • infectious diseases
  • Inflammation
  • parasites
  • macrophages
  • mucosal immunology
  • helminths
  • EcoImmunology

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