Our research investigates the importance of interactions between the gut microbiome, diet and the developing immune system in early life. This is an exciting new frontier for human health.

Early life

From the moment we are born, or bodies begin to be colonised by trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses, collectively known as microbiota. Our immune system is developing in parallel, so a baby's gut is the site of dynamic cross-talk between the microbiota and the immune system. 

Once we reach adulthood, 70–80 percent of our immune cells reside in the gut. How this vital and interactive environment, the diet-microbiota-immune axis, develops during the first years of life and how this impacts on long-term health is being studied by Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom and her team.

They hope to identify specific milestones which influence the development of an optimal immune system and identify linkages with non-communicable diseases such as asthma, allergy, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

lieke gut health

Research programmes

Our Gut Immunology team is led by Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom with research in two programmes – infectious disease and inflammatory disease.

The infectious disease programme is investigating animal and human antibody responses to flu vaccines.

Our inflammatory disease research is in the following areas:

  • Allergic disease in the skin, lung and gut. We are deciphering the immune mechanisms for novel targets that treat and prevent allergic disease. We are also studying the role of food to improve immune outcomes for allergy avoidance.
  • Obesity: examining the pathways that regulate fat gains compared to metabolic abnormalities such as lipid spillover and insulin resistance.
  • Gut inflammation: researching the mechanisms that regulate intestinal homeostasis and gut health.

Specialised laboratories

Our gut health research requires the use of the Hugh Green Cytometry Core.