School of Veterinary Medicine and Science


Robert Atterbury

Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences


  • workRoom B70 School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
    Sutton Bonington Campus
    Sutton Bonington
    LE12 5RD
  • work0115 951 6088


Robert Atterbury graduated with a BSc in Biology from the University of Nottingham. He remained at Nottingham to undertake a PhD in Microbiology, investigating the ability of bacteriophage to control food-borne pathogens such as Campylobacter. He then spent over five years at the Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol where he further developed bacteriophage treatments for zoonotic pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli and developed an interest in the epidemiology and survival of Campylobacter and Salmonella in poultry production. In 2009 he moved to the University of Nottingham Medical School to investigate the use of a predatory bacterium (Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus) to control Salmonella colonisation in poultry. During this time he was also an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Bristol. In 2010 he joined the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham.

Expertise Summary

Robert Atterbury is a Lecturer in Veterinary Microbiology and Public Health. He co-convenes the Year 4 module in Veterinary Public Health and contributes to the delivery of modules in all other years. His research interests include the use of bacteriophage and predatory bacteria in the biological control of infectious diseases, and the epidemiology and control of zoonotic pathogens in the food chain.

Research Summary

My research is directed towards the epidemiology and control of food and water-borne zoonotic pathogens, and the development of biological methods to control infectious diseases. The main focus on my… read more

Selected Publications

  • COLOM, JOAN, BATISTA, DIEGO, BAIG, ABIYAD, TANG, YING, LIU, SIYANG, YUAN, FANGZHONG, BELKHIRI, AOUATIF, MARCELINO, LUCAS, BARBOSA, FERNANDA, RUBIO, MARCELA and OTHERS, 2019. Sex pilus specific bacteriophage to drive bacterial population towards antibiotic sensitivity Scientific Reports. 9(1), 1-11
  • SARKAR, SOUNAK, DAS, MAYUKH, BHOWMICK, TUSHAR SUVRA, KOLEY, HEMANTA, ATTERBURY, ROBERT, CHAKRABARTI, ALOK K and SARKAR, BANWARILAL L, 2018. Isolation and characterization of novel broad host range bacteriophages of Vibrio cholerae O1 from Bengal Journal of global infectious diseases. 10(2), 84
  • BHANDARE, SUDHAKAR, COLOM, JOAN, BAIG, ABIYAD, RITCHIE, JENNY M, BUKHARI, HABIB, SHAH, MUHAMMAD A, SARKAR, BANWARILAL L, SU, JINGLIANG, WREN, BRENDAN, BARROW, PAUL and OTHERS, 2018. Reviving Phage Therapy for the Treatment of Cholera The Journal of infectious diseases. 219(5), 786-794
  • BAIG, A., COLOM, J., BARROW, P., SCHOULER, C., MOODLEY, A., LAVIGNE, R. and ATTERBURY, R., 2017. Biology and genomics of an historic therapeutic Escherichia coli bacteriophage collection Frontiers in Microbiology. 8, 1652

Current Research

My research is directed towards the epidemiology and control of food and water-borne zoonotic pathogens, and the development of biological methods to control infectious diseases. The main focus on my work is on Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, and Vibrio cholerae. I also have an on-going interest in viruses which infect bacteria (bacteriophage) and bacteria which prey upon other bacteria (Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus).

1. Bacteriophage therapy

One of the greatest challenges facing the human population in the 21st century is the rapid rise in antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens. Alternative treatments are urgently required and we are investigating one such treatment - the use of bacteriophage. These viruses were discovered almost a century ago and show significant promise as a natural method of infection control. In collaboration with colleagues at the School of Biosciences (Prof. Ian Connerton) and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science (Prof. Paul Barrow) we have shown that bacteriophage treatments can significantly reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter populations at key points in the human food chain (Atterbury et al, 2007, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 73.14:4543-4549). We are now focusing more on how bacteriophage interact with bacteria, and bacterial resistance against bacteriophage.

2. Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus

The predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus has a fascinating lifecycle which involves penetrating and replicating inside Gram negative bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. At the end of its lifecycle, Bdellovibrio bursts out of the prey cell, killing it in the process. This has a number of applications in the control of infectious diseases. Moreover, there is only one mechanism of resistance to Bdellovibrio which has so far been found - the production of a complete surface (S)-layer. In collaboration with Prof. Liz Sockett at the University's Medical School, we are investigating the use of Bdellovibrio as biological controls for animal infections. We have recently shown that Bdellovibrio can reduce Salmonella populations in the food chain (Atterbury et al, 2011, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77.16.5794-5803). Encouraged by these results, we are now investigating new applications of Bdellovibrio to treat animal diseases.

Current fuding:

UK-India Education and Research Initiative: "Development of a bacteriophage-based biocontrol technology for the treatment of cholera" 2014-2016.

BBSRC-Animal Health and Welfare ERA-Net "A bacteriophage-based approach to reducing infections caused by antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli" 2015-2018.

Past Research

Previously, Dr. Atterbury worked as a Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, where he investigated the epidemiology of Campylobacter and Salmonella in UK poultry flocks. During this time he was also involved in a number of collaborations between academia and industry in the areas of meat and process hygiene, vaccine delivery, competitive exclusion and bacteriophage therapy.

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 6116
fax: +44 (0)115 951 6415