Physics of infection

Addressing mechanisms of phagocytosis and other aspects of our immune response

All organisms encounter microbes in their natural environment, some of which are pathogenic leading to host disease. In an everlasting host-pathogen arms race, hosts need to adapt to respond to pathogen attacks, while pathogens constantly evolve mechanisms to evade or subvert host defences. In this theme, we integrate theory and techniques from physical sciences with the biological investigation of infection. We aim to explore the physics underlying fundamental problems in infection biology such as how do pathogens adhere to hosts, invade cells and spread into tissues, how do pathogens or host cells form highly organised structures during infection, what is the influence of mechanics on the outcome of infection, how is immune signalling regulated in time and space, what is the role of viscoelasticity of cells in immune signalling. To answer these questions, biophysical methods play an important role allowing us to trap single cells, manipulate pathogen delivery or measure forces and physical properties. Topics of interest within Imperial are:

  • Mathematical modelling of infection dynamics and host/pathogen properties
  • Quantitative immune signalling
  • Biophysical properties in host-pathogen interactions
  • Physics of phagocytosis


Theme lead