Skip to Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer

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

Dr James Ussher

Research interests:

Applied and molecular immunology, medical microbiology, vaccines

Current research:

My research interest is infection and immunity. In particular, I am interested in mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, their role in antibacterial immunity, and how they might be harnessed to prevent or treat bacterial infection. I have been involved in several fundamental discoveries in MAIT cell biology.

I am also interested in the antimicrobial resistance, in particular its rapid detection, characterisation, and transmission, especially in Enterobacteriaceae.

My clinical specialty is medical microbiology.


Lab group

Rachel Hannaway2Marion Schneider

Postgraduate students 

Rajesh LamichhanePhoebe Dewar

Positions available


Previous lab members

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

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

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

Dr Marion Schneider - Postdoctoral Fellow


Current Sources of Funding

OSMS Dean’s Bequest Fund

University of Otago Research Grant

William Sherriff Charitable Trust

Lottery Health

Health Research Council


ResearchGate profile


Lamichhane R, Schneider M, de la Harpe SM, Harrop TWR, Hannaway RF, Dearden P, Kirman JR, Tyndall JDA, Vernall AJ, Ussher JE. Transcriptional analysis defines TCR and cytokine-stimulated MAIT cells as rapid polyfunctional effector T cells that can coordinate the immune response. bioRxiv, 2019; doi: 10.1101/600189.

Hannaway RF, Wang X, Schneider M, Slow S, Schofield MR, Morgan X, Murdoch DR, Ussher JE. Role of Innate-like Lymphocytes in the Pathogenesis of Community-Acquired Pneumonia. bioRxiv, 2018; doi: 10.1101/495556.

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; doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz147     IF 5.045

Verrall AJ, Alisjahbana B, Apriani L, Novianty N, Nurani AC, 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; doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz168     IF 5.045

Yong YK, Saeidi A, Tan HY, Rosmawati M, Enstrom PF, Batran RA, Vasuki V, Chattopadhyay I, Murugesan A, Vignesh R, Kamarulzaman A, Rajarajeswaran J, Ansari AW, Vadivelu J, Ussher JE, Velu V, 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 Cells in Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection. Frontiers in Immunology, 2018; doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00472

Ussher JE, Willberg CB, Klenerman P. MAIT cells and viruses. Immunology and Cell Biology, 2018; doi: 10.1111/imcb.12008.     IF 3.947

Kurioka A, Jahun AS, Hannaway RF, Walker LJ, Fergusson JR, Sverremark-Ekstrom 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; doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01031.     IF 4.716

Myat TO, Hannaway RF, Zin KN, Htike WW, Win KK, Crump JA, Murdoch DR, Ussher JE. ESBL- and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae in patients with bacteremia, Yangon, Myanmar, 2014. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2017; doi: 10.3201/eid2305.161100

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. doi: 10.1189/jlb.4RU0216-084R.     IF 4.012

Robinson AM and Ussher JE. Preparation of positive blood cultures for direct MALDI-ToF MS identification. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2016.05.026.     

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; doi: 10.1002/eji.201545969.  IF 4.695 

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.    IF 5.723

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; doi:10.1038/mi.2015.69.    IF 7.537

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.   IF 1.864

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, CB and Klenerman, P. CD161-expressing lymphocytes share a common transcriptional signature and function. Cell Reports, 2014; 9(3); 1075-1088.  IF 7.207

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, 2014 doi: 10.1038/mi.2014.81. [Epub ahead of print].  IF 7.537 

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, doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.09.006. [Epub ahead of print].  IF 11.248

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. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00450. 

Jo J, Tan AT, Ussher JE, Sandalova E, Tang X-Z, Tan-Garcia A, To N, Hong M, Chia A, Gill US, Kennedy PT, Tan KC, Lee KH, De Libero G, Gehring AJ, Willberg CB, 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.  IF 8.14

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  IF 4.97 

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. IF 5.076

Cosgrove C*, Ussher JE*, 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  IF 9.898

Sheppard H*, Ussher JE*, 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.   *Contributed equally  IF 3.73

Smith R, Pandey SK, and Ussher JE. Bacteraemia caused by Catabacter hongkongensis.Anaerobe, 2012; 18(3):366-368.  IF 2.022

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  IF 4.065

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.  IF 4.019

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.  IF 9.374

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.