prof. dr. R.J.L. (Rob) Willems

prof. dr. R.J.L. (Rob) Willems

Full Professor
prof. dr. R.J.L. (Rob) Willems
  • Department of Medical Microbiology

Research Programs

Infection & Immunity



Prof. dr. Rob Willems studied biology at the Free University in Amsterdam and acquired his PhD from the Utrecht University in 1993 on “Genetic and functional studies on Bordetella pertussis fimbriae”. After postdoc positions at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University and at the Department of Infectious Diseases of the University Hospital, Leiden he became research scientist and section head at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in 1996. In 2003 he moved from the RIVM to the University Medical Center Utrecht where he became assistant professor. In 2008 he was appointed associate professor and since December 1st 2016, he is full professor of Population Genetics of Antibiotic Resistance at the department of Medical Microbiology of the University Medical Center Utrecht. Since 1997, he has set up and been involved in various national and international studies on antibiotic resistance. From 2007-2011 he coordinated an EC FP6 project on Approaches to Control multi-resistant Enterococci (ACE) and from 2011-2015 he was principal investigator and coordinator of the EC FP7 project designated Evolution and Transmission of Antibiotic Resistance (EvoTAR). His research group aims to unravel the genetic evolution, population and functional genomics of Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis as well as E. faecium host-pathogen interactions. His group was the first that identified structure in the E. faecium population and described that strains from hospitalized patients were genetically distinct from animal isolates and human commensal isolates. He also published the first comparative genomics paper on E. faecium using comparative genomic hybridizations as well as whole genome sequencing that revealed that E. faecium has an open genome capable for frequently incorporating new DNA in its genome. Currently, his group is focussing on genome based epidemiology of multidrug-resistant pathogens, with a special focus reconstructing and tracking the spread of plasmids based on genome and metagenome sequence data. Furthermore, his group aims to decipher the processes and molecular mechanisms that contribute to colonization resistance against high density colonization of antibiotic-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and enterococci and the consequences of intestinal outgrowth of these multidrig resistant opportunistic pathogens on pathogen-host cross-talk. Finally, his group performs microbiome-based analysis to decipher the role of the microbiome in health and disease. Dr. Willems has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.

Side Activities

Contract Research:

Willems was on behalf of the UMC Utrecht principel investigator of the collaborative Research Agreement with Janssen Research & Development, LLC (63871860BAC0006) Global serotype distribution among ExPEC bacteremie isolates (2018-2020). (no personal payments).

Willems was on behalf of the UMC Utrecht principle investigator of the collaborative Research Agreement with Janssen Research & Development LLC (VAC52416BAC0008) O-serotype distribution of ExPEC isolates from urosepsis, cystitis, and asymptomatic bacteruria (2019-2021). (no personal payments)

Willems is on behalf of the UMC Utrecht principle investigator of the Janssen Research & Development LLC (VAC52416BAC0001) Genomic and Phenotypic profiling of ExPEC-associated urosepsis primary cultures (2019-2022) (no personal payments).



Willems was on behalf of the UMC Utrecht coordinator of the JPI-EC-AMR JTC 2016 project Selection and transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance (STARCS) (2017-2021) (no personal payments).

Willems was on behalf of the UMC Utrecht coordinator of the Netherlands Center of One Health Molecular mechanisms of microbiota-mediated colonization resistance against intestinal outgrowth of multidrug resistant enterobacteriaceae (2017-2021) (no personal payments)

Willems is on behalf of the UMC Utrecht collaborator on the TKI-LSH ppp allowance funded project Drivers of Selection and Spread of Mobile Genetic Elements involved in antimicrobial resistance (DISSEMINATE) (2020-2023) (no personal payments).


Courses and Conferences:

Organiser and lecturer in courses and conferences in microbiology in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Wageningen, France, Germany, United Kingdon, Norway, Denmark, and Italy (no payments).

Guest teacher refresher course Hoge school Utrecht (payments to Rob Willems)


Editorial and Review Services:

Referee for several journals and regular referee for funding organisations such as University of Tromso (Norway),Institut Pasteur (France), Irish Research Council Laureate Awards (Ireland) and German Research Foundation, DTU (Denmark), International Centre for diarrhoeal Disease Research  (Bangladesh), Marie Curie Fellowship (EU), NWO-Top (NL), ZonMW-Veni (NL) and The Welcome Trust (UK), NWO-Klein (NL) (payments to Rob Willems).

Research Output (249)

The population-level impact of Enterococcus faecalis genetics on intestinal colonization and extraintestinal infection

Chaguza Chrispin, Pöntinen Anna K., Top Janetta, Arredondo-Alonso Sergio, Freitas Ana R., Novais Carla, Torres Carmen, Bentley Stephen D., Peixe Luisa, Coque Teresa M., Willems Rob J.L., Corander Jukka 12 Dec 2023, In: Microbiology spectrum. 11 21 p.

Gut microbiome dynamics in index patients colonized with extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacterales after hospital discharge and their household contacts

Top Janetta, Verschuuren Tess D., Viveen Marco C., Riccio M. Eugenia, Harbarth Stephan, Kluytmans Jan A.J.W., Willems Rob J.L., Paganelli Fernanda L. 12 Dec 2023, In: Microbiology spectrum. 11 13 p.

Unraveling Enterococcus susceptibility to quaternary ammonium compounds:genes, phenotypes, and the impact of environmental conditions

Pereira Ana P., Antunes Patrícia, Bierge Paula, Willems Rob J.L., Corander Jukka, Coque Teresa M., Pich Oscar Q., Peixe Luisa, Freitas Ana R., Novais Carla, 22 Sep 2023, In: Microbiology spectrum. 11 18 p.

Gut Colonization by ESBL-Producing Escherichia coli in Dogs Is Associated with a Distinct Microbiome and Resistome Composition

Stege Paul B., Hordijk Joost, Sandholt Arnar K.S., Zomer Aldert L., Viveen Marco C., Rogers Malbert R.C., Salomons Moniek, Wagenaar Jaap A., Mughini-Gras Lapo, Willems Rob J.L., Paganelli Fernanda L. 17 Aug 2023, In: Microbiology spectrum. 11 , p. 1-14

Characterization of bla<sub>KPC-2</sub> and bla<sub>NDM-1</sub> Plasmids of a K. pneumoniae ST11 Outbreak Clone

Boralli Camila Maria dos Santos, Paganini Julian Andres, Meneses Rodrigo Silva, Mata Camila Pacheco Silveira Martins da, Leite Edna Marilea Meireles, Schürch Anita C., Paganelli Fernanda L., Willems Rob J.L., Camargo Ilana Lopes Baratella Cunha May 2023, In: Antibiotics. 12

Enterococcus spp. from chicken meat collected 20 years apart overcome multiple stresses occurring in the poultry production chain:Antibiotics, copper and acids

Rebelo Andreia, Duarte Bárbara, Ferreira Carolina, Mourão Joana, Ribeiro Sofia, Freitas Ana R., Coque Teresa M., Willems Rob, Corander Jukka, Peixe Luísa, Antunes Patrícia, Novais Carla 2 Jan 2023, In: International Journal of Food Microbiology. 384

Species-Specific Patterns of Gut Metabolic Modules in Dutch Individuals with Different Dietary Habits

Shetty Sudarshan A., Stege Paul B., Hordijk Joost, Gijsbers Esther, Dierikx Cindy M., Van Duijkeren Engeline, Franz Eelco, Willems Rob J.L., Paganelli Fernanda L., Fuentes Susana Nov 2022, In: mSphere. 7

Evolution of Chlorhexidine Susceptibility and of the EfrEF Operon among Enterococcus faecalis from Diverse Environments, Clones, and Time Spans

Pereira Ana P., Antunes Patrícia, Willems Rob, Corander Jukka, Coque Teresa M., Peixe Luísa, Freitas Ana R., Novais Carla 7 Jul 2022, In: Microbiology spectrum. 10

Effects of early-life antibiotics on the developing infant gut microbiome and resistome:a randomized trial

Reyman Marta, van Houten Marlies A., Watson Rebecca L., Chu Mei Ling J.N., Arp Kayleigh, de Waal Wouter J., Schiering Irene, Plötz Frans B., Willems Rob J.L., van Schaik Willem, Sanders Elisabeth A.M., Bogaert Debby 16 Feb 2022, In: Nature Communications. 13 , p. 1-12

The interplay between community and hospital Enterococcus faecium clones within health-care settings:a genomic analysis

van Hal Sebastiaan J., Willems Rob J.L., Gouliouris Theodore, Ballard Susan A., Coque Teresa M., Hammerum Anette M., Hegstad Kristin, Pinholt Mette, Howden Benjamin P., Malhotra-Kumar Surbhi, Werner Guido, Yanagihara Katsunori, Earl Ashlee M., Raven Katherine E., Corander Jukka, Bowden Rory, Feb 2022, In: The Lancet Microbe. 3 , p. e133-e141

All research output

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