Professor Martin Holland


of Microbial Immunity

Room K307

Keppel Street
United Kingdom

+44 (0)20 7927 2573

I graduated in biology from the University of York in 1984. The same year I joined the MRC Clinical Immunology Research Unit, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital (now Imperial College School of Medicine) where we researched auto-immune nephritis. From 1985-7 I studied for an M.Sc. in Immunology at Kings, Queen Mary and Chelsea colleges. In 1987 I joined David Mabey at LSHTM and studied for a Ph.D in cellular immunity following ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. This was followed by two post-doctoral positions in Edinburgh firstly at the Moredun Research Institute in retrovirology and then the Edinburgh University Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology (now Institute for Infection and Immunology Research) to study intestinal nematode infestations with Rick Maizels. In June 2000 I rejoined the trachoma group at LSHTM to continue studies on the immunology and pathogenesis of trachoma. From 2002 until 2010 I was based at the MRC laboratories in The Gambia and from 2005 led trachoma research based at the MRC laboratories. In June 2010 I returned to the UK and I am currently based at the Keppel Street site with continuing projects in Tanzania, Guinea Bissau and The Gambia.


Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases
Department of Clinical Research


Vaccine Centre


I am currently module leader for Clinical Immunology at LSHTM. Previously I have taught Immunology at undergraduate level whilst at the University of Edinburgh. I have supervised a number of B.Sc and M.Sc students from several universities in the U.K and U.S and advised and co-supervised doctoral research students whilst at MRC Unit The Gambia and at LSHTM.


My interests focus on the development of conjunctival fibrosis causing scarring and the characterisation of immune responses to potential C. trachomatis vaccine candidates. We are part of a EU Horizon 2020 funded consortium to develop a vaccine against C. trachomatis ocular infections (TracVac) and a member of the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research. In particular we have applied genomic scale studies to trachoma examining the conjunctival transcriptome by microarray, RNAseq and high through put quantitative RTPCR. We have also studied ocular bacterial communties using 16S-amplicon sequencing, the global anti-Ct antibody repertoire, and host genetic susceptiblity by GWAS. We have also studied pathogen variation by whole genome sequencing associated with clinical severity, ocular tropism and identified genome wide signatures of selection. This has led to the development of a number of research areas including investigating the role of NK cells in the response to C. trachomatis, the contribution of host genetics (in particular the role of KIR/HLA) to disease and understanding the extent of pathogen diversity and its impact on clinical disease.

I spent 8 years at the Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia leading a group field assistants, students and scientists investigating trachoma. We investigated the immunology of ocular infection with C. trachomatis cutting across a number of disciplines ranging from molecular immunogenetics to classical cellular immunology. Our work in trachoma endemic populations continues through collaboration with the MRC Unit and with other members of LSHTM staff in The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia.

Research Area
Human genetics
Innate immunity
Molecular biology
Disease and Health Conditions
Infectious disease
United Kingdom
Gambia, The
European Union
Pacific island small states
Sub-Saharan Africa (developing only)

Selected Publications

Population-based analysis of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis in trachoma-endemic West African communities identifies genomic markers of disease severity.
Last, A.R. ; Pickering, H. ; Roberts, C.H. ; Coll, F. ; Phelan, J. ; Burr, S.E. ; Cassama, E. ; Nabicassa, M. ; Seth-Smith, H.M.B. ; Hadfield, J. ; Cutcliffe, L.T. ; Clarke, I.N. ; Mabey, D.C.W. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Clark, T.G. ; Thomson, N.R. ; Holland, M.J. ;
Genome Med
Genome-wide profiling of humoral immunity and pathogen genes under selection identifies immune evasion tactics of Chlamydia trachomatis during ocular infection.
Pickering, H. ; Teng, A. ; Faal, N. ; Joof, H. ; Makalo, P. ; Cassama, E. ; Nabicassa, M. ; Last, A.R. ; Burr, S.E. ; Rowland-Jones, S.L. ; Thomson, N.R. ; Roberts, C.H. ; Mabey, D.C.W. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Hayward, R.D. ; de la Maza, L.M. ; Holland, M.J. ;
Sci Rep
Inverse relationship between microRNA-155 and -184 expression with increasing conjunctival inflammation during ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infection.
Derrick, T. ; Last, A.R. ; Burr, S.E. ; Roberts, C.H. ; Nabicassa, M. ; Cassama, E. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Burton, M.J. ; Holland, M.J. ;
BMC Infect Dis
Pathogenesis of progressive scarring trachoma in ethiopia and Tanzania and its implications for disease control: two cohort studies.
Burton, M.J. ; Rajak, S.N. ; Hu, V.H. ; Ramadhani, A. ; Habtamu, E. ; Massae, P. ; Tadesse, Z. ; Callahan, K. ; Emerson, P.M. ; Khaw, P.T. ; Jeffries, D. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Weiss, H.A. ; Holland, M.J. ;
PLoS Negl Trop Dis
Conjunctival fibrosis and the innate barriers to Chlamydia trachomatis intracellular infection: a genome wide association study.
Roberts, C.H. ; Franklin, C.S. ; Makalo, P. ; Joof, H. ; Sarr, I. ; Mahdi, O.S. ; Sillah, A. ; Bah, M. ; Payne, F. ; Jeffreys, A.E. ; Bottomley, W. ; Natividad, A. ; Molina-Gonzalez, S. ; Burr, S.E. ; Preston, M. ; Kwiatkowski, D. ; Rockett, K.A. ; Clark, T.G. ; Burton, M.J. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Bailey, R. ; Barroso, I. ; Holland, M.J. ;
Sci Rep
Conjunctival Scarring in Trachoma Is Associated with the HLA-C Ligand of KIR and Is Exacerbated by Heterozygosity at KIR2DL2/KIR2DL3.
Roberts, C.H. ; Molina, S. ; Makalo, P. ; Joof, H. ; Harding-Esch, E.M. ; Burr, S.E. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Burton, M.J. ; Holland, M.J. ;
PLoS Negl Trop Dis
The conjunctival microbiome in health and trachomatous disease: a case control study.
Zhou, Y. ; Holland, M.J. ; Makalo, P. ; Joof, H. ; Roberts, C.H. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Burton, M.J. ; Weinstock, G.M. ; Burr, S.E. ;
Genome Med
Development and Evaluation of a Next-Generation Digital PCR Diagnostic Assay for Ocular Chlamydia trachomatis Infections.
Roberts, C.H. ; Last, A. ; Molina-Gonzalez, S. ; Cassama, E. ; Butcher, R. ; Nabicassa, M. ; McCarthy, E. ; Burr, S.E. ; Mabey, D.C. ; Bailey, R.L. ; Holland, M.J. ;
J Clin Microbiol
See all Professor Martin Holland's Publications