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Blizard Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr Claire Bourke, BSc, PhD


Honorary Senior Lecturer

Centre: Centre for Genomics and Child Health



Claire Bourke was awarded a BSc in Biological Sciences with Honours in Immunology and a PhD in the immunobiology of human parasitic worm infections from the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD included extended periods of field work in rural Zimbabwe as part of a longitudinal assessment of school-based treatment for schistosomiasis and collaboration with researchers at the Serum Statens Institute in Copenhagen on a placebo-controlled trial of voluntary nematode infection. Claire went on to study the cellular immune response to parasites at barrier sites during a postdoctoral position at the University of York, working with an in vivo model of cutaneous schistosomiasis and samples from a cohort study of schistosome co-infection in Senegal. She went on to investigate the clinical and immunological effects of prophylactic antibiotic treatment among Ugandan and Zimbabwean children living with HIV during a postdoctoral position at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Throughout her time at QMUL she developed an interest in the immunopathogenesis of malnutrition, establishing pilot studies among affected pediatric populations with collaborators in Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2017 she was awarded a 5-year Sir Henry Dale Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society. Claire’s current work is split between QMUL, the Zvitambo Institute of Maternal of Child Health in Harare, Zimbabwe and the Tropical Gastroenterology and Nutrition (TROPGAN) group in Lusaka, Zambia




Research Interests:

Chronic systemic inflammation both reflects and drives defects in immune cell function in ways that are poorly understood. My research evaluates immune cell function in population studies in sub-Saharan Africa and how this relates to systemic immune phenotypes, focusing on conditions underlying infectious mortality and morbidity (malnutrition, HIV and parasite infections). My ultimate goals are to identify biomarkers of immune dysfunction with utility for improving clinical management of patients at heightened risk of infectious mortality and to characterize dysfunctional pathways that could be therapeutically targeted to reduce long-term infectious sequelae.


My current projects are made possible by close collaboration with research teams at Zvitambo Institute of Maternal and Child Health, Zimbabwe, and the Tropical Gastroenterology and Nutrition group, Zambia.


  • The relationship between innate immune cell function and bacterial infections in severe acute malnutrition

Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) underlies one million deaths in children under 5 years old annually. SAM is identified by extreme weight loss, but deaths are predominantly due to infection, particularly with bacteria. This project is characterising the relationship between bacterial infections and the anti-bacterial functions of innate immune cells using blood samples collected from children hospitalised with SAM in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and tracking this relationship during hospitalisation and over 48 weeks of post-discharge nutritional rehabilitation.


  • Immune function in early-life and the factors contributing to dysfunction

The first 1000 days of life are critical for long-term health and development, including establishment of robust anti-pathogen immune responses. Using samples collected from 18 month old children and longitudinal data collected from early pregnancy as part of the Sanitation, Hygiene, Infant Nutrition Efficacy (SHNE) birth cohort study in rural Zimbabwe, this project is investigating the contribution of early-life factors to subsequent immune cell phenotype and function. 


  • The impact of cotrimoxazole on health and immune activation in HIV-infected children

Long-term continuation of prophylactic treatment with the antibiotic cotrimoxazole reduces mortality and morbidity among people living with HIV for reasons which are unclear. This project, led by Prof. Andrew Prendergast, is investigating the effect of cotrimoxazole on systemic inflammation in children living with HIV in Uganda and Zimbabwe using a combination of clinical data, stored specimens and in vitro models.


Research Group

  • Tafhima Haider



Bourke CD, Berkley JA, Prendergast AJ (2016). Immune dysfunction as a cause and consequence of malnutrition. Trends in Immunology vol. 37, (6) Article TREIMM_1280, 386-398. 10.1016/ 

Bourke CD, Prendergast CT, Sanin DE et al. (2015). Epidermal keratinocytes initiate wound healing and pro-inflammatory immune responses following percutaneous schistosome infection. International Journal of Parasitology vol. 45, (4) 215-224. 10.1016/j.ijpara.2014.11.002 

Bourke CD, Nausch N, Rujeni N et al (2014). Cytokine Responses to the anti-schistosome vaccine candidate antigen glutathione-S-transferase vary with host age and are boosted by praziquantel treatment. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases vol. 8, (5) e2846-e2846.1371/journal.pntd.0002846 

Turner JD, Bourke CD, Meurs L et al (2014). Circulating CD14brightCD16+ ‘intermediate’ monocytes exhibit enhanced parasite pattern recognition in human helminth infection. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases vol. 8, (4) e2817-e2817. 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002817 

Bourke CD, Nausch N, Rujeni N et al (2013). Integrated analysis of innate, Th1, Th2, Th17, and regulatory cytokines identifies changes in immune polarisation following treatment of human schistosomiasis. Journal of Infectious Diseases vol. 208, (1) 159-169. 10.1093/infdis/jis524

Bourke CD, Mutapi F, Nausch N et al (2012). Trichuris suis ova therapy for allergic rhinitis does not affect allergen-specific cytokine responses despite a parasite-specific cytokine response. Clinical & Experimental Allergy vol. 42, (11) 1582-1595. 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2012.04063.x 

Bourke CD, Gough, Pimundu, G., Shonhai, A., Berejena, C., Terry, L., Baumard, L. R., Choudhry, N., Karmali, Y., Bwakura-Dangarembizi, M., Musiime, V., Lutaakome, J., Kekitiinwa, A., Mutasa, K., Szubert, A. J., Spyer, M. J., Deayton, J. R., Glass, M., Geum, H. M., Pardieu, C., Gibb, D. M., Klein, N., Edens, T. J., Walker, A. S., Manges, A. R. & Prendergast, A. J. (2019) Cotrimoxazole reduces systemic inflammation in HIV infection by altering the gut microbiome and immune activation. Science Translational Medicine; 11:, eaav0537. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aav0537

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