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.


Department of Clinical Research
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases


Vaccine Centre


I am currently module organiser of immunology of infection and vaccines at LSHTM. Previously was module organiser for immunolog of clincial disease between 2011-2021. 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 MRCG and at LSHTM. I was a Departmental Reseach Degree coordinator for RDS students between 2012 and 2021.


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
The Gambia
European Union
Pacific island small states
Sub-Saharan Africa (developing only)

Selected Publications

Fecal biomarkers of environmental enteric dysfunction and the gut microbiota of rural Malawian children: An observational study.
Chaima D; Pickering H; Hart JD; Burr SE; Maleta KM; Kalua K; Bailey RL; Holland MJ
Immunopathogenesis of Progressive Scarring Trachoma: Results of a 4-Year Longitudinal Study in Tanzanian Children.
Derrick T; Ramadhani AM; Macleod D; Massae P; Mafuru E; Aiweda M; Mbuya K; Makupa W; Mtuy T; Bailey RL
DjinniChip: evaluation of a novel molecular rapid diagnostic device for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis in trachoma-endemic areas.
Derrick TR; Sandetskaya N; Pickering H; Kölsch A; Ramadhani A; Mafuru E; Massae P; Malisa A; Mtuy T; Burton MJ
Parasites & Vectors
Mass drug administration with azithromycin for trachoma elimination and the population structure of Streptococcus pneumoniae in the nasopharynx.
Gladstone RA; Bojang E; Hart J; Harding-Esch EM; Mabey D; Sillah A; Bailey RL; Burr SE; Roca A; Bentley SD
Clinical microbiology and infection : the official publication of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Genomics of Ocular Chlamydia trachomatis After 5 Years of SAFE Interventions for Trachoma in Amhara, Ethiopia.
Pickering H; Chernet A; Sata E; Zerihun M; Williams CA; Breuer J; Nute AW; Haile M; Zeru T; Tadesse Z
The Journal of infectious diseases
Conjunctival Microbiome-Host Responses Are Associated With Impaired Epithelial Cell Health in Both Early and Late Stages of Trachoma.
Pickering H; Palmer CD; Houghton J; Makalo P; Joof H; Derrick T; Goncalves A; Mabey DCW; Bailey RL; Burton MJ
Population-based analysis of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis in trachoma-endemic West African communities identifies genomic markers of disease severity.
Last AR; Pickering H; Roberts CH; Coll F; Phelan J; Burr SE; Cassama E; Nabicassa M; Seth-Smith HMB; Hadfield J
Genome medicine
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 AR; Burr SE; Rowland-Jones SL
Scientific reports
Inverse relationship between microRNA-155 and -184 expression with increasing conjunctival inflammation during ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infection.
Derrick T; Last AR; Burr SE; Roberts CH; Nabicassa M; Cassama E; Bailey RL; Mabey DCW; Burton MJ; Holland MJ
BMC infectious diseases
Increased Epithelial Expression of CTGF and S100A7 with Elevated Subepithelial Expression of IL-1β in Trachomatous Trichiasis.
Derrick T; Luthert PJ; Jama H; Hu VH; Massae P; Essex D; Holland MJ; Burton MJ
PLoS neglected tropical diseases
Conjunctival fibrosis and the innate barriers to Chlamydia trachomatis intracellular infection: a genome wide association study.
Roberts CH; Franklin CS; Makalo P; Joof H; Sarr I; Mahdi OS; Sillah A; Bah M; Payne F; Jeffreys AE
Scientific reports
Conjunctival scarring in trachoma is associated with the HLA-C ligand of KIR and is exacerbated by heterozygosity at KIR2DL2/KIR2DL3.
Roberts CH; Molina S; Makalo P; Joof H; Harding-Esch EM; Burr SE; Mabey DCW; Bailey RL; Burton MJ; Holland MJ
PLoS neglected tropical diseases
The conjunctival microbiome in health and trachomatous disease: a case control study.
Zhou Y; Holland MJ; Makalo P; Joof H; Roberts CH; Mabey DC; Bailey RL; Burton MJ; Weinstock GM; Burr SE
Genome medicine
Development and evaluation of a next-generation digital PCR diagnostic assay for ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infections.
Roberts CH; Last A; Molina-Gonzalez S; Cassama E; Butcher R; Nabicassa M; McCarthy E; Burr SE; Mabey DC; Bailey RL
Journal of clinical microbiology
Systemic effector and regulatory immune responses to chlamydial antigens in trachomatous trichiasis.
Gall A; Horowitz A; Joof H; Natividad A; Tetteh K; Riley E; Bailey RL; Mabey DCW; Holland MJ
Frontiers in microbiology
Conjunctival expression of matrix metalloproteinase and proinflammatory cytokine genes after trichiasis surgery.
Burton MJ; Bailey RL; Jeffries D; Rajak SN; Adegbola RA; Sillah A; Mabey DCW; Holland MJ
Investigative ophthalmology & visual science
Human conjunctival transcriptome analysis reveals the prominence of innate defense in Chlamydia trachomatis infection.
Natividad A; Freeman TC; Jeffries D; Burton MJ; Mabey DCW; Bailey RL; Holland MJ
Infection and immunity
See more Publications