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Microbiology Logo Microbiology & Immunology
Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate

Professor James Ussher

Research interests:

Applied and molecular immunology, medical microbiology, vaccines

Current research:

My academic research interest is in infection and immunity:

  • Antibacterial immunity. In particular, the role of mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells and other innate-like T cells in antibacterial immunity, and how they might be harnessed to prevent or treat bacterial infections. I have been involved in several fundamental discoveries in MAIT cell biology.
  • Antimicrobial resistance in Enterobacteriaecae. In particular, the use of molecular epidemiology to track transmission pathways.

My clinical specialty is clinical microbiology and my research interests are in the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and infection control.

Recently my group has been working with Prof. Miguel Quiñones-Mateu's group to respond to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19:

  • Developed a SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR assay on the Panther Fusion for high throughput, random access testing
  • Culture and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2, including genome sequencing

In collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Jo Stanton's group and Prof. Miguel Quiñones-Mateu's group we are working to develop novel diagnostic strategies for SARS-CoV-2.

Screen Shot 2020 03 27 at 12.35.15 PM

Ussher Lab 2020

Lab group

 RachelHannaway5  RajeshLamichane2    
Rachel Hannaway - Laboratory Manager Rajesh Lamichhane - Assistant Research Fellow    

Postgraduate students 



 Sakiusa3  TabbieRoman2  Mitchell Foster

Ohn Myat - PhD Student 

 Sakiusa Baleivanualala - PhD Student 

Tabatha Roman - PhD Student   Mitchell Foster - Phd Student


Henry Cao



Henry Cao - MSc Student      
 Hannah Boswell  Laura Wedlock    
Hannah Boswell - BBiomedSci (Hons) Laura Wedlock - BSc (Hons)    


Lab Alumni

  • Andrew Robinson - BBioMedSci (Hons) (first class) 2014. Summer student 2014/2015. Thesis: "Novel methods for the rapid identification and susceptibility testing of blood culture isolates". Currently: Studying medicine, University of Otago 
  • Isabelle Stewart - BSc (Hons) (first class) 2014. Thesis: "Improving the diagnosis of leukaemia by flow cytometry". Currently: DPhil candidate, University of Oxford
  • Joshua Lange - BSc (Hons) (first class) 2015. Thesis: "The role of mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in cervine Johne's disease". Currently: PhD candidate, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
  • Emily Powell - BSc (Hons) (first class) 2016. Thesis: "Isolation and Characterisation of Mucosal Associated Invariant T (MAIT) cells in Red Deer". Currently: Lab Technician, Assure Quality
  • Isuri Hapuarachchi - PGDipMLSc 2016. Thesis: Evaluation of ESBL E. coli urinary isolates in Dunedin. MMLSc 2020. Thesis: "Genetic Evaluation of ESBL E. coli Urinary Isolates in Otago". Currently: Medical laboratory scientist, Southern Community Laboratories.
  • Thomas Williams - BSc (Hons) (first class) 2017. Thesis: "The role of Toll-like receptor signalling in MR1 surface expression and mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cell activation". Currently: Bachelor of Medicine, University of Auckland
  • Maad Youhanna - MSc 2017. Currently: Bachelor of Dental Surgery, University of Otago
  • Tabatha Roman - BBioMedSci (Hons) (first class) 2018. Thesis: "MR1 surface expression on primary blood cells and their role in mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cell activation". Currently: MSc (BBioMedSci) candidate, University of Otago
  • Henry Cao - PGDipSci 2018. Thesis: "Method development for the visualisation of mucosal associated invariant T cells and MR1-expressing cells in formalin fixed paraffin embedded samples". Currently: MSc candidate, University of Otago
  • Phoebe Dewar, BBioMedSci (Hons) (first class) 2019. Thesis: "Bacterial regulation of early activation of mucosal-associated invariant T cells". Currently: PhD candidate, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Marion Schneider - Postdoctoral Fellow


Current Sources of Funding

Health Research Council

Maurice Wilkins Centre

University of Otago Research Grant



ResearchGate profile


Thorn, L.M., J.E. Ussher, R.S. Broadbent, J.M. Manning, K.J. Sharples, J.A. Crump. “Risk factors for Staphylococcus capitis pulsotype NRCS-A colonisation among premature neonates in the neonatal intensive care unit of a tertiary-care hospital: a retrospective case-control study.” Infection Prevention in Practice (accepted)

Schneider, M., R. F. Hannaway, R. Lamichhane, S. M. de la Harpe, J. D. A. Tyndall, A. J. Vernall, A. J. Kettle and J.E. Ussher. Neutrophils suppress mucosal-associated invariant T cells in humans. European Journal of Immunology, 2020;

Hannaway R, Wang, X, Schneider M, Slow S, Cowan J, Brockway B, Schofield M, Morgan X, Murdoch D, Ussher JE. Mucosal associated invariant T cells and Vδ2+ γδ T cells in community acquired pneumonia: association of abundance in sputum with clinical severity and outcome. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 2020; 199: 201-215.

Lamichhane R, Galvin H, Hannaway RF, de la Harpe SM, Munro F, Tyndall JDA, Vernall AJ, McCall JL, Husain M, Ussher JE. Type I interferons are important co-stimulatory signals during T cell receptor mediated human MAIT cell activation. European Journal of Immunology, 2020; 50: 178-191.

Harrison, S., M. G. Baker, J. Benschop, R. G. Death, N. P. French, G. Harmsworth, R. J. Lake, I. L. Lamont, P. C. Priest, J.E. Ussher and D. R. Murdoch. "One Health Aotearoa: a transdisciplinary initiative to improve human, animal and environmental health in New Zealand." One Health Outlook, 2020; 2(1): 4.

Verrall, A. J., L. Chaidir, C. Ruesen, L. Apriani, R. C. Koesoemadinata, J. van Ingen, K. Sharples, R. van Crevel, B. Alisjahbana, P. C. Hill and INFECT study group Lower BCG protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection after exposure to Beijing strains. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2020;

Lamichhane R, Schneider M, de la Harpe SM, Harrop TWR, Hannaway RF, Dearden P, Kirman JR, Tyndall JDA, Vernall AJ, Ussher JE. TCR and cytokine-stimulated CD8+ mucosal associated invariant T cells are rapid polyfunctional effector T cells that can coordinate immune responses. Cell Reports, 2019; 28(12): 3061-3076.e3065.

Leng, T, Akther HD, Hackstein C-P, Powell K, King T, Friedrich M, Christoforidou Z, McCuaig S, Neyazi M, Arancibia-Cárcamo CV, Hagel J, Powrie F, Peres RS, Millar V, Ebner D, Lamichhane R, Ussher JE, Hinks TSC, Marchi E, Willberg C, Klenerman P. "TCR and inflammatory signals tune human MAIT cells to exert specific tissue repair and effector functions." Cell Reports, 2019; 28(12): 3077-3091.e3075.

Fox-Lewis A, Isteed K, Austin P, Thompson-Faiva H, Wolfgang J, Ussher JE. A case of imported Q fever in New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 2019; 132(1505):92-94.

Oo KM, Myat TO, Htike WW, Biswas A, Hannaway RF, Murdoch DR, Crump JA, Ussher JE. Molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and phylogenetic relationship of Salmonella enterica isolates from febrile patients in Yangon, Myanmar. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 2019; pii: trz053. doi:10.1093/trstmh/trz053.

Verrall AJ*, Schneider M*, Alisjahbana B, Apriani L, van Laarhoven A, Koeken VACM, van Dorp S, Diadani E, Utama F, Hannaway RF, Indrati A, Netea MG, Sharples K, Hill PC, Ussher JE*, van Crevel R*. Early clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is associated with increased innate immune responses. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2019. pii: jiz147. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz147.   *Contributed equally 

Verrall AJ, Alisjahbana B, Apriani L, Novianti, Nurani A, van Laarhoven A, Ussher JE, Indrati A, Ruslami R, Netea MG, Sharples K, van Crevel R, Hill PC. Early clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis: the INFECT case contact cohort study in Indonesia. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2019; pii: jiz168. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz168.

Priest P, Slow S, Chambers ST C, Balm M, Beale M, Blackmore T, Burns A, Drinkovic D, Elvy J, Everts R, Hammer D, Hewison C, Mansell C, Raeder V, Roberts S, Robinson M, Sathyendran V, Taylor S, Thompson A, Ussher JE, van der Linden A, Williams M, Podmore RG, Anderson TP, Barratt K, Mitchell JL, Harte D, Hope V, Murdoch DR. A national cross-sectional study to uncover the hidden burden of Legionnaires’ Disease: the LegiNZ study. Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2019; 9(7):770-777.

Oo WT, Myat TO, Htike WW, Ussher JE, Murdoch DR, Lwin KT, Oo MZ, Maze MJ, Win HH, Crump JA. Incidence of typhoid and paratyphoid fevers among adolescents and adults in Yangon, Myanmar. Clinical Infectious Diseases2019; 7:68(Supplement_2):S124-S129.

van Laarhoven A, Dian S, van Dorp S, Purnama F, Koeken VACM, Diandini E, Utami F, Livia R, Apriani L, Ardiansyah E, ter Horst R, Netea MG, Achmad TH, Hill PC, Ruslami R, Alisjahbana B, Ussher JE, Indrati A, Verrall A, Ganiem AR, van Crevel R. Immune cell characteristics and cytokine responses in adult HIV-negative tuberculous meningitis: an observational cohort study. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9: 884.

Carter GP*, Ussher JE*, Goncalves da Silva A, Baines SL, Heffernan H, Riley TV, Broadbent R, van der Linden A, Lee J, Monk IR, Stinear TP, Howden B, and Williamson DA. Genomic analysis of multiresistant Staphylococcus capitis associated with neonatal sepsis. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 2018; 62(11) pii: e00898-18.       *Contributed equally 

Fergusson J, Ussher JE, Kurioka A, Klenerman  P, Walker L. High MDR-1 expression by MAIT cells confers resistance to cytotoxic but not immunosuppressive MDR1 substrates. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 2018; 194(2):180-191.

Murray L, Satti I, Meyerowitz J., Jones M, Willberg C, Ussher JE, Goedhals D, Hurst J, Phillips RE, McShane H, van Vuuren C, Frater J (2018). Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Impairs Th1 and Th17 Mycobacterium tuberculosis–Specific T-Cell Responses. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2018, 217(11):1782-1792.

Yong YK, Saeidi A, Tan HY, Rosmawati M, Enström PF, Batran RA, Vasuki V, Sakkaravarthi VV, Murugesan A, Ramachandran V, Kamarulzaman A, Rajarajeswaran J, Ansari AW, Vadivelu J, Velu V, Ussher JE, Larsson M, Shankar EM. Hyper-Expression of PD-1 is Associated with the Levels of Exhausted and Dysfunctional Phenotypes of Circulating CD161++ TCR iVα7. 2+ Mucosal-Associated Invariant T (MAIT) Cells in Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection. Frontiers in Immunology, 2018,9:472.

Ussher JE, Willberg CB, Klenerman K. MAIT cells and viruses. Immunology and Cell Biology, 2018, 96(6):630-641. 

Kurioka A, Jahun AS, Hannaway R, Walker LJ, Fergusson JR, Sverremark-Ekström E, Corbett AJ, Ussher JE, Willberg CB, Klenerman P. Shared and Distinct Phenotypes and Functions of human CD161++Vα7.2+ T cell subsets. Frontiers in Immunology, 2017; 8:1031.

Lamichhane R, Ussher JE. Expression and trafficking of MR1. Immunology, 2017; 151(3):270-279.     

Myat TO, Hannaway R, Zin KN, Htike WW, Win KK, Crump JA, Murdoch DR, Ussher JE. High prevalence of ESBL- and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae among patients with sepsis in Yangon, Myanmar, 2014, Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2017;23(5):857-859. 

Robinson AM, Medlicott NJ, Ussher JE. The rapid detection of cefotaxime-resistant Enterobacteriaceae by HPLC. Future Science OA, 2016; FSO143.

Robinson AM, Ussher JE. Preparation of positive blood cultures for direct MALDI-ToF MS identification. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 2016; 127:74–76.

Saeidi A, Ellegård R, Kong Y, Hong T, Velu V, Ussher JE, Larsson M, and Shankar EM. Functional role of MAIT cells in HIV infection. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2016 Jun 2. pii: jlb.4RU0216-084R.

Ussher JE, van WilgenburgB, Hannaway RF, Ruustal K, Phalora P, Kurioka A, Hansen TH, Willberg CB, Phillips RE, Klenerman P. TLR signalling in human antigen-presenting cells regulates MR1-dependent activation of MAIT cells. European Journal of Immunology, 2016; 46(7): 1600-1614.   

Gough N, and Ussher JE. An outbreak of mumps-like illness. New Zealand Public Health Surveillance Report, 2015; 13(4):2.

Ussher JE, Phalora P, Cosgrove C, Hannaway R, Rauch A, Gunthard HF, Goulder P, Phillips RE, Willberg CB and Klenerman P. Molecular analyses define Vα7.2-Jα33+ MAIT-cell depletion in HIV infection: a case-control study. Medicine, 2015; 94(29):e1134.   

Fergusson JR, Hühn MH, Swadling L, Walker LJ, Kurioka A, Llibre A., Newell EW, Davis MM, Bertoletti A, Holländer G, Sverremark-Ekström E, Powrie F, Folgori A, Barnes E, Willberg CB, Ussher JE and Klenerman P. CD161int CD8+ T cells: a novel population of highly functional, memory CD8+ T cells enriched within the gut. Mucosal Immunology, 2015; 9(2):401-13.   

Slade H, Mulroy E, Ussher JE, Putt T, Schollum J, Walker R. Sulfadiazine-induced crystal nephropathy: A new ‘old’ problem. Nephrology, 2015; 20(7):511.  

Kurioka A, Ussher JE, Cosgrove C, Clough C, Fergusson JR, Smith K, Kang Y-H, Walker LJ, Hansen TH, Willberg CB, Klenerman P. MAIT cells are licensed through granzyme exchange to kill bacterially sensitized targets. Mucosal Immunology, 2015; 8(2):429-40. 

Xue L, Fergusson JR, Salimi M, Panse I, Ussher JE, Hegazy AN, Vinall SL, Jackson, DG, Hunter MG, Pettipher R, Ogg G, Klenerman P. Prostaglandin D2 and Leukotriene E4 synergise to stimulate diverse Th2 functions and Th2 cell/neutrophil crosstalk. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2015;135(5):1358-66.e1-11. 

Fergusson, JR, Smith, K, Fleming, VM, Rajoriya, N, Newell, EW, Simmons, R, Marchi, E, Bjorkander, S, Kang, Y-H, Swadling, L, Kurioka, A, Sahga, N, Lockstone, H, Baban, D, Freeman, G, Sverremark, E, Davis, MM, Davenport, MP, Venturi, V, Ussher JE, Willberg, C and Klenerman, P. CD161-expressing lymphocytes share a common transcriptional signature and function. Cell Reports, 2014; 9(3): 1075-1088. 

Ussher JE, Klenerman P and Willberg CB (2014). Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells: new players in anti-bacterial immunity. Frontiers in Immunology, 5:450.

Jo J, Tan A, Ussher JE, Sandalova E, Tang X-Z, Tan-Garcia A, To N, Hong M, Chia A, Gill U, Kennedy PT, Tan K, Lee K, De Libero G, Gehring A, Willberg C, Klenerman P, Bertoletti A. Toll-like receptor 8 agonist and bacteria trigger potent activation of innate immune cells in human liver. PLoS Pathogens 2014, 10:e1004210. 

Ussher JE*, Bilton M*, AttwodE, Shadwell J, Richardson R, de Lara C, Mettke E, Kurioka A, Hansen T, Klenerman P, Willberg CB. CD161++CD8+ T cells, including the MAIT cell subset, are specifically activated by IL-12 + IL-18 in a TCR-independent manner. European Journal of Immunology, 2014; 44(1); 195-203. *Contributed equally 

Ge Y, Mansell A, Ussher JE, Brooks AE, Manning K, Wealthall R, Wang C, Taylor JA. Rotavirus NSP4 triggers secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines from macrophages via Toll-Like Receptor-2. Journal of Virology, 2013; 87(20):11160-7.

Ussher JE*, Cosgrove C*, Rauch A, Gärtner K, Kurioka A, Hühn MH, AdelmannK, Kang Y-H, Fergusson JR, Simmonds P, Goulder P, Hansen TH, Fox J, Günthard HF, Khanna N, Powrie F, Steel A, Gazzard B, Phillips RE, Frater J, Uhlig H, and Klenerman P. Early and non-reversible decrease of CD161++/MAIT Cells in HIV Infection. Blood,2013; 121(6): 951-961.   *Contributed equally 

Ussher JE*, Sheppard H*, Verdon D, Taylor JA, Dunbar PR. Efficient transduction of primary human melanocytes by recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 6. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8(4):e62753.  

Smith R, Pandey SK, and Ussher JE. Bacteraemia caused by Catabacter hongkongensis.Anaerobe, 2012; 18(3):366-368.

Ussher JE*, Locke M*, Mistry R, Taylor JA, Dunbar PR. Transduction of human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells by recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors. Tissue Engineering: Part C,2011; 17(9): 949-959.   *Contributed equally 

Ussher JE, Taylor JA. Optimized Transduction of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells by recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 6. Human Gene Therapy, 2010; 21(12): 1675-1686. 

Ussher JE, Wilson E, Campanella S, Taylor SL, Roberts SA. Haemophilus ducreyi causing chronic skin ulceration in children visiting Samoa. Clinical Infectious Diseases,2007; 44(10): e85-7. 

Briggs S, Ussher J, Taylor S. Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae at Middlemore Hospital. New Zealand Medical Journal, 2005; 118(1218): U1563.

Chambers ST, Heckert KA, Bagshaw S, Ussher J, Birch M, Wilson MA. Maternity care providers’ attitudes and practices concerning HIV testing during pregnancy; results of a survey of the Canterbury and upper South Island region. New Zealand Medical Journal, 2001; 114(1144):507-8.