Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsIn this Step, I'm with Doctor Simon Clarke to discuss his research on how bacterial pathogens interact with human hosts. So Simon, you're interest is in the host pathogen interaction? Why do pathogens cause disease? Well there are two ways, really, that pathogens can cause disease. One is by producing a toxic molecule that will directly damage host cells or host tissues. The other is to provoke a very strong immune response. So you get an over exuberant immune response which damages the host, not just the bacteria it's targeted against. So can you tell me a little bit more about your own research here at the University of Reading? So my lab work on the biology of Staphylococcus aureus.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsSo nearly everybody says about it, I think, because it's the SA in MRSA. And we study two things. One, the bacteria's interaction with the cardiovascular system because it can cause a very nasty, very quickly fatal disease called endocarditis. And it can also colonise the human gut. So we study how the bacteria interacts with the cells which are present in your cardiovascular system, in your circulatory system, but we also study how the bacteria live in your gut, which is actually quite a hostile environment for some bacteria. How do the bacteria actually get into the gut? Well, you're actually-- the primary ecological niche for Staphylococcus aureus is your nose.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsAnd the average adult human swallows between one or two pints of their own nasal secretions every day. And what can microbiologists do to combat infection? So antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective. Resistance is much more common than it used to be, and it's getting more common all the time. So there is an urgent, pressing need for the development of new antibiotics. Also, we could have vaccines against some of these diseases. So develop a better understanding of the immune response to infection and development of a vaccine would help a great deal. And how can research help humanity overcome disease? Well, the most important aspect of research is to find out how disease actually happens.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsAntibiotics, which just really poison bacteria, are becoming less and less useful. So we need to have better understanding of how the bacteria interacts with its host-- it's human host. And therefore, we can try and block the process of disease. Simon, it's been great talking to you today. And it's wonderful to hear all the great research which is going on here about how bacteria actually cause disease in humans I look forward to seeing those progressions in the future. Thanks. Thank you.

Meet Dr Simon Clarke

In Step 2.10, Professor Glenn Gibson explained how microbes can impact the human microbiome. In this ‘Meet the expert’ video, I meet with Dr Simon Clarke who researches the mechanisms used by a notorious bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, to interact with host tissues.

It’s important to understand pathogen-host interactions to develop strategies for the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. You’ll find out more about in this in the next Step.


Throughout this course, you’ve met many microbiologists working in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading. If you’ve enjoyed hearing about their research, particularity with a medical focus, then you would like Heart Health: A Beginner’s Guide to Cardiovascular Disease.

This FutureLearn course, led by my colleague Dr Natasha Barrett, explains how the heart works, the causes of diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and heart failure and what you can do to avoid them. It includes hands-on practical activities which you can try at home (including an optional exercise where you can dissect a heart) as well as interviews with experts from the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research.

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This video is from the free online course:

Small and Mighty: Introduction to Microbiology

University of Reading