Professor Chris Bayliss

Professor of Bacterial Genetics

School/Department: Genetics and Genome Biology, Department of

Telephone: 0116(0) 252 3465



I am an expert in bacterial genetics with a specific interest in how hypermutable DNA contributions to the adaptability and spread of bacterial pathogens. I also have an interest in vaccines for preventing bacterial meningitis. I was promoted to Professor in 2020 with the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology and lead a research group comprised of post-doctoral researchers, research assistants and PhD students.

My long-term interest in microbiology started with completion of a BSc degree in Microbiology at Aberystwyth University followed by a PhD at Houghton Poultry Research Institute in Cambridgeshire. My PhD project involved the cloning and sequencing of the dsRNA genome of Infectious Bursal Disease Virus a pathogen of chickens that led on to two three-year research projects on the molecular biology of vaccinia virus in the Universities of Florida and Oxford. In 1997, I joined Prof. Richard Moxon’s team at the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine Oxford and worked on hypermutable mechanisms for surface variability in two bacterial pathogens responsible for meningitis. After seven-years I moved to the University of Nottingham obtaining a Wellcome Trust Value in People Award before joining the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester initiatially as an RCUK Research Fellow but progressing to Lecturer (2011) and Reader (2016).



Hypermutable DNA sequences enable bacterial pathogens and commensals to colonise and persist in host organisms. A common mechanism involves mutations in tandem DNA repeat tracts (microsatellites). My group focuses on the hypermutable DNA sequences of three bacterial pathogens - Neisseria meningitidis (meningitis and septicaemia), Haemophilus influenzae (meningitis and otitis media) and Campylobacter jejuni (foodborne gastroenteritis).

One key research area is understanding the mutability of these repetitive DNA tracts. Mutations in these repeats switch gene expression ‘on’ and ‘off’ in a process called phase variation. We use mutants and reporter constructs to identify cis- and trans-acting factors that control mutability of these tracts.

Our other key research area is using bioinformatics molecular biology, epidemiology and modelling to understand how repetitive DNA contributes to host colonisation and disease processes. Our wide-range of findings include identifying phase-variable genes (the phasome) in genomes of pathogens, observing genetic changes during asymptomatic carriage of meningococci in university students and identifying potential determinants of disease. I also have an interest in vaccines for preventing meningitis and uptake of these vaccines by university students.


(0) I have 86 publications with 5 articles in 2020 and 8 in 2019. The publications below highlight recent findings, my areas of research and some of my major outputs.

Green LR, Al-Rubaiawi AA, Al-Maeni MARM, Harrison OB, Blades M, Oldfield NJ,  . . Bayliss CD (2020) Localized Hypermutation is the Major Driver of Meningococcal Genetic Variability during Persistent Asymptomatic Carriage. mBio, 11(2), doi:10.1128/mBio.03068-19

Holmes JC, Green LR, Oldfield NJ, Turner DPJ, & Bayliss CD (2020) Rapid Transmission of a Hyper-Virulent Meningococcal Clone Due to High Effective Contact Numbers and Super Spreaders. FRONTIERS IN GENETICS, 11. doi:10.3389/fgene.2020.579411

Green LR, Dave N, Adewoye AB, Lucidarme J, Clark SA, Oldfield NJ, . . Bayliss CD (2019) Potentiation of Phase Variation in Multiple Outer-Membrane Proteins During Spread of the Hyperinvasive Neisseria meningitidis Serogroup W ST-11 Lineage. JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, 220(7), 1109-1117. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz275

Turkington CJR, Morozov A, Clokie MRJ, & Bayliss CD (2019) Phage-Resistant Phase-Variant Sub-populations Mediate Herd Immunity Against Bacteriophage Invasion of Bacterial Meta-Populations. FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 10, 14 pages. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01473 

Aidley J, Wanford JJ, Green LR, Sheppard SK & Bayliss CD (2018) Phasomelt: an 'omics' approach to cataloguing the potential breadth of phase variation in the genus Campylobacter. MICROBIAL GENOMICS, 4(11). doi:10.1099/mgen.0.000228

Bayliss CD, et al. (2012) Phase variable genes of Campylobacter jejuni exhibit high mutation rates and specific mutational patterns but mutability is not the major determinant of population structure during host colonisation. Nucleic Acids Research, 40, 5876-5889. doi:10.1093/nar/gks246

Bayliss CD (2009). Determinants of phase variation rate and the fitness implications of differing rates for bacterial pathogens. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 33: 504-520.


My research group offers multiple opportunities for post-graduate research at the MSc or PhD levels. Projects focus on the following areas:-

• Phenotypic and genome wide association studies of meningococcal virulence factors

• Understanding genetic determinants of bacterial gene expression

• Epidemiological studies of phase variation during meningococcal carriage

• Understanding the contributions of phase variation to spread and infections by Campylobacter jejuni 

• Genomic analyses of repetitive DNA in bacterial pathogens 

• Computer modelling of phase variation in bacterial populations 


My teaching is focussed on microbial pathogenesis bacterial genomics and vaccinology. I offer projects to 2nd-year summer students 3rd year undergraduates and MSc students interested applying molecular biological and bioinformatics techniques to bacterial research.

My main teaching role is as co-convenor and lecturer of Microbial Pathogenesis and Genomics (BS3011). This module explores in depth the use of molecular biology infection models and genomics in understanding bacterial pathogens and bacterial virulence factors. Through a series of lectures tutorials and seminars we explore key principles of bacterial pathogenesis critical topics and how to understand original published research.

I also give lectures on vaccine development and implementation for bacterial diseases in Advanced Topics in Medical Microbiology (MB3020) and tutor for 1st year students taking Foundations of Biological Sciences (BS3011) and Genes (BS1050).

My post-graduate teaching encompasses general bacterial lectures and an experiment course in our MSc in Molecular Genetics. This experiment provides experience using sequencing and bioinformatic tools to interrogate bacterial sequences.

Press and media

My research is focused on genetic variability of bacterial pathogens. In 2020 I presented my Inaugural Lecture and this can be accessed here: I also have an interest in uptake of vaccines by students and our surveys of COVID-19 vaccine uptake by students has lead to our University implementing programs to enhance vaccine uptake: I have also been involved in analysis of the functionality of Bexsero, the MenB vaccine that is part of the UK Infant Immunisation Schedule:
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