Associate Professor Li Zhang


Fields of Research (FoR)

Microbiology, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Immunology


Dr Li Zhang is an Associate Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. Associate Professor Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Associate Professor Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. After completing her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell...view more

Dr Li Zhang is an Associate Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. Associate Professor Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Associate Professor Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. After completing her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology at the National University of Singapore before joining the University of New South Wales (UNSW). 


  • MB BS, Fudan University, China
  • PhD, University of Cambridge, UK


Associate Professor Li Zhang's group investigates bacterial species that cause or prevent inflammatory diseases and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  They study bacterial genomes, bacterial virulence factors, interactions of bacterial pathogens and gut microbiome with the immune system, and novel methods to modify gut and oral microbiome and enhance antibiotic sensitivity.  Associate Professor Zhang's earlier research was on autoimmune diseases. 

Associate Professor Li Zhang is a pioneering researcher in the field of human-hosted Campylobacter species and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She hypothesized that some strains of Campylobacter concisus, a bacterium that usually colonises the human oral cavity, have enteric pathogenicity and are the initiator of a subgroup of human IBD. Research in Associate Professor Zhang’s group has provided critical information to this emerging research field, including disease association, C. concisus natural colonisation site, the discovery of two C. concisus genomospecies based on core genome, and C. concisus genomic features associated with IBD. They discovered that C. concisus pSma1 plasmid is associated with severe ulcerative colitis (UC) .  They also found that C. concisus plasmid pICON and a novel toxin gene csep1 are associated with active Crohn's disease (CD), and that patients with CD who carry pICON positive C. concisus strains are more likely to develop complications  UC and CD are the two major clinical forms of IBD. Associate Professor Zhang's laboratory is currently investigating the pathogenic mechanisms of IBD-associated C. concisus plasmids.  

The second aspect of current research in Zhang's group is on Aeromonas species. Aeromonas species are emerging enteric bacterial pathogens, causing gastrointestinal infections with varied severity from mild self-limiting diseases to dysentery. Up to 40% of patients with Aeromonas gastrointestinal infection require antibiotic treatment. Associate Professor Zhang's team recently discovered that Aeromonas species are the second most common enteric bacterial pathogens in Australia, with a novel three-peak infection pattern associated with patient age. They also discovered that Aeromonas gastrointestinal infection in Australia is primarily locally acquired. Further research will be conducted to investigate the sources of infection and examine the Aeromonas bacteria at the species level, which will provide essential information for effective prevention and targeted treatment. 

The third aspect of research in Associate Professor Zhang's group is the impact of microbes on immune regulation.  Associate Professor Zhang hypothesized that chronic infection and inflammation may impact PD-L1/PD1 blockade therapy. The research group has recently found that some commensal gut bacterial species up-regulate the intestinal epithelial expression of PD-L1 under inflammatory conditions Ongoing research in Associate Professor Zhang's laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which different gut bacterial species impact immunotherapy.  

  • Selected Publications

Lee SA, Liu F, Phan M, Chong S, Biazik J, Tay ACY, Janitz M, Riordan SM, Lan R, Wehrhahn MC, Zhang L, 2023, 'Emerging Aeromonas enteric infections: their association with inflammatory bowel disease and novel pathogenic mechanisms.' Microbiology Spectrum.

Yumono C, Wehrhahn MC, Liu F, Zhang L, 2023, ' Enteric Aeromonas infections: a common enteric bacterial infection with a novel infection pattern detected in an Australian population with gastroenteritis.' Microbiology Spectrum.

Liu F, Yuwono C, Tay ACY, Wehrhahn MC, Riordan SM, Zhang L, 2022, 'Analysis of global Aeromonas veronii genomes provides novel information on source of infection and virulence in human gastrointestinal diseases.' BMC genomics 23 (1), 1-15.

Liu F, Chen S, Luu LDW, Lee SA, Tay ACY, Wu R, Riordan SM, Lan R, Liu L, Zhang L, 2020, 'Analysis of complete genomes identifies genomospecies features, secretion systems and novel plasmids and their association with severe ulcerative colitis.', Microbial Genomics,

Lee SA; Wang Y; Liu F; Riordan SM; Liu L; Zhang L, 2020, 'Escherichia coli K12 upregulates PD-L1 expression in IFN-γ sensitized intestinal epithelial cells via the NF-κB pathway.', Infect Immun

Liu F; Ma R; Tay CYA; Octavia S; Lan R; Chung HKL; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Leong RW; Tanaka MM; Connor S; Zhang L, 2018, 'Genomic analysis of oral Campylobacter concisus strains identified a potential bacterial molecular marker associated with active Crohn's disease', Emerging Microbes and Infections, vol. 7,

Wang Y; Ma R; Liu F; Lee SA; Zhang L, 2018, 'Modulation of Gut Microbiota: A Novel Paradigm of Enhancing the Efficacy of Programmed Death-1 and Programmed Death Ligand-1 Blockade Therapy. Front. Immunol.

Liu F; Ma R; Wang Y; Zhang L, 2018, 'The clinical importance of Campylobacter concisus and other human hosted Campylobacter species', Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, vol. 8,

Chung HKL; Tay A; Octavia S; Chen J; Liu F; Ma R; Lan R; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Zhang L, 2016, 'Genome analysis of Campylobacter concisus strains from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and gastroenteritis provides new insights into pathogenicity', Scientific Reports, vol. 6,

Lastovica AJ; On SLW; Zhang L, 2014, 'The family Campylobacteraceae', in Moreira AP B; Meirelles PM; Thompson F (ed.), The Prokaryotes, Springer Heidelberg, New York Dordrecht London, pp. 307 - 335,

Mahendran V; Riordan S; Grimm M; Tran TAT; Major J; Kaakoush NO; Mitchell HM; Zhang L, 2011, 'Prevalence of Campylobacter species in adult Crohn's disease and the preferential colonization sites of Campylobacter species in the human intestine', PLoS ONE, vol. 6, pp. 1 - 7,

Zhang L; Budman V; Day AS; Mitchell HM; Lemberg DA; Riordan SM; Grimm M; Leach ST; Ismail Y, 2010, 'Isolation and detection of Campylobacter concisus from saliva of healthy individuals and patients with inflammatory bowel disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 48, pp. 2965 - 2967,

Zhang L; Man S; Day AS; Leach ST; Lemberg DA; Dutt S; Stormon MO; Otley AR; O Loughlin E; Magoffin A; Ng P; Mitchell HM, 2009, 'Detection and isolation of Campylobacter species other than C. jejuni from children with Crohn`s disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 47, pp. 453 - 455,

Zhang L; Jayne DRW; Zhao MH; Lockwood CM; Oliveira DBG, 1995, 'Distribution of MHC class II alleles in primary systemic vasculitis', Kidney International, vol. 47, pp. 294 - 298,

  • Full List of Publications and Citations

Associate Professor Zhang's full list of publications and citations can be found on Google Scholar.

  • Media Release

  • Associate Editor and Editorial Board Member

Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology: Associate Editor (bacteria and host) since 2022

Gut Pathogens: Associate Editor since 2021

World Journal of Gastroenterology: Editorial Board Member since 2017

  • PhD and Masters by Research Student Supervision

As the primary supervisor, Associate Professor Li Zhang has supervised 13 higher degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008 (seven PhD and six Masters by Research students).

Current supervision areas include:

  • Genomic and proteomic analysis of the pathogenicity of Campylobacter concisus, Aeromonas species, and other emerging bacterial pathogens
  • Microbes and their pathogenic mechanisms in IBD and other gastrointestinal diseases
  • The interactions of gut microbiota and the immune system in health and disease
  • Novel strategies to modify microbiota and combat antimicrobial resistance
  • Honours Research Project Supervision

As the primary supervisor, Associate Professor Zhang has supervised 30 honours degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008. For current available projects, please see the school honours project book..

Undergraduate Teaching

  • BABS 3041 (Immunology): Associate Professor Zhang has been the course coordinator and principal lecturer since 2012.

  • Medical Microbiology: Associate Professor Zhang is the coordinator and principal lecturer for the medical microbiology component in UNSW medical program (Phase I, Phase II and Phase III).

  • BABS 3081 (Bacteria and Disease): Associate Professor Zhang delivers three lectures for this course.


  • 2020                            BABS T1 Teaching Award Runner-up (Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology

  • 2019                            UNSW President Award Nominee

  • 2014                            BABS T1 Titans of Teaching Award (Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology





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