School of Biosciences

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Cath Rees

Professor of Microbiology, Faculty of Science



My focus of research is the application of molecular biology to fundamental research on micro-organisms of importance to the food industry. Specific research focuses on the food borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes and the cattle pathogens Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Johne's disease in cattle) and Mycobacterium bovis (bovine TB). In addition my research group specializes in the use of bacteriophage to develop rapid methods of detection of bacterial pathogens.

Expertise Summary

General area of expertise:

  • Bacterial genetics and molecular biology
  • Applied microbiology and the food industry
  • Analysis of gene expression and use of reporter genes
  • Bacteriophage

Genetics and physiology of Gram-positive food borne pathogens:

  • Adaptation, survival and transmission of bacteria in the food environment with a specific focus on Listeria and Mycobacterium.
  • Development of novel food preservatives

Biotechnology applications for Bacteriophage:

  • Use for rapid detection of bacterial pathogens with a specific focus on Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Johne's disease of cattle) and Mycobacterium bovis (bovine TB)
  • Application of bacteriophage for diagnosis of human infections (Human TB and Crohn's disease)
  • Genetic engineering of bacteriophage for detection of pathogens

Teaching Summary

I teach across a wide range of modules covering bacterial physiology, genetics, molecular microbiology, pathogenicity and biotechnology. My main teaching contributions are in the following modules:

BIOS 1027 (Module Convenor) The Physiology of Microbes

BIOS2008 (Lecturer) Analysis of Bacterial Gene Expression

BIOS2009 (Co-convenor and lecturer) Virology

BIOS3018 (Co-convenor and lecturer) Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology

Research Summary

Listeria monocytogenes is a major cause for concern for the food industry as it causes outbreaks of food borne disease with the highest death rate. In the UK numbers of cases continue to increase and… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

Listeria monocytogenes is a major cause for concern for the food industry as it causes outbreaks of food borne disease with the highest death rate. In the UK numbers of cases continue to increase and factors causing this are unclear. It has the ability to grow under many of the conditions normally used to suppress the growth of bacterial pathogens (such as high salt and low temperature) and therefore manufactures are required to demonstrates an absence from high risk foods. In addition to being associated with many food ingredients (meat, fish, dairy and vegetables), it can become endemic in the food processing environment, resulting in cross-contamination of product. Focus of research looks at aspects of adaptive gene expression and cell physiology that lead to its survival in the food environment.

Bacteriophage are viruses that infect bacterial cells. These viruses have a host tropism meaning that they only infect a limited number of bacterial cell types. We have exploited this specific host interaction to develop assays to detect slow growing members of the genus Mycobacterium. These organisms take a minimum of 20 days to detect by rapid culture methods; the slowest growing organism takes up to 40 days whereas phage-based assays take just 48 h. This novel assay has been applied to a variety of samples; foods such as milk and cheese and clinical specimens such as sputum and blood. Research is being carried out to understand the impact of these new assays on the understanding of disease transmission in cattle and in improving control programes.

Past Research

Collaboration with staff in UoN Physics Dept to investigate the effect of reduced gravity on bacterial cells and the use of strong magnetic fields to separate biological material.

Future Research

Detection of bovine TB in veterinary clinical samples

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

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