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 also focussing on genome based epidemiology of multidrug-resistant pathogens, with a special focus reconstructing and tracking the spread of plasmids based on genome 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. Dr. Willems has authored more than 175 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.

Side Activities

Chair of the Division of Molecular typing of the Royal Netherlands Society for Microbiology. Organised and lectured in courses and conferences in microbiology in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Wageningen, France, Germany, United Kingdon, Norway, Denmark, and Italy. 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).

Research Output (230)

Evolution of colistin resistance in the Klebsiella pneumoniae complex follows multiple evolutionary trajectories with variable effects on fitness and virulence characteristics

Janssen Axel B, Doorduijn Dennis J, Mills Grant, Rogers Malbert R C, Bonten Marc J M, Rooijakkers Suzan H M, Willems Rob J L, Bengoechea Jose A, van Schaik Willem 2 nov 2020, In: Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 65 , p. 1-15

Whole Genome Sequence Analysis of the First Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecium Isolates from a Libyan Hospital in Tripoli

Ahmed Mohamed O., Elramalli Asma K., Baptiste Keith E., Daw Mohamed A., Zorgani Abdulaziz, Brouwer Ellen, Willems Rob J.L., Top Janetta 1 nov 2020, In: Microbial drug resistance. 26 , p. 1390-1398 9 p.

Conditionally essential genes for survival during starvation in Enterococcus faecium E745

de Maat Vincent, Arredondo-Alonso Sergio, Willems Rob J.L., van Schaik Willem 18 aug 2020, In: BMC Genomics. 21 11 p.

Enterococcus faecium:From microbiological insights to practical recommendations for infection control and diagnostics

Zhou Xuewei, Willems Rob J.L., Friedrich Alexander W., Rossen John W.A., Bathoorn Erik 10 aug 2020, In: Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. 9 13 p.

Microevolution of acquired colistin resistance in Enterobacteriaceae from ICU patients receiving selective decontamination of the digestive tract

Janssen Axel B, van Hout Denise, Bonten Marc J M, Willems Rob J L, van Schaik Willem 26 jul 2020, In: The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy. 75 , p. 3135-3143 9 p.

Low IgA Associated With Oropharyngeal Microbiota Changes and Lung Disease in Primary Antibody Deficiency

Berbers Roos Marijn, Mohamed Hoesein Firdaus A.A., Ellerbroek Pauline M., van Montfrans Joris M., Dalm Virgil A.S.H., van Hagen P. Martin, Paganelli Fernanda L., Viveen Marco C., Rogers Malbert R.C., de Jong Pim A., Uh Hae Won, Willems Rob J.L., Leavis Helen L. 19 jun 2020, In: Frontiers in Immunology. 11 11 p.

gplas:a comprehensive tool for plasmid analysis using short-read graphs

Arredondo-Alonso Sergio, Bootsma Martin, Hein Yaïr, Rogers Malbert R.C., Corander Jukka, Willems Rob J.L., Schürch Anita C. 15 jun 2020, In: Bioinformatics (Oxford, England). 36 , p. 3874-3876 3 p.

Nonclonal Emergence of Colistin Resistance Associated with Mutations in the BasRS Two-Component System in Escherichia coli Bloodstream Isolates

Janssen Axel B., Bartholomew Toby L., Marciszewska Natalia P., Bonten Marc J.M., Willems Rob J.L., Bengoechea Jose A., van Schaik Willem 11 mrt 2020, In: mSphere. 5 13 p.

Mutational signature in colorectal cancer caused by genotoxic pks+ E. coli

Pleguezuelos-Manzano Cayetano, Puschhof Jens, Rosendahl Huber Axel, van Hoeck Arne, Wood Henry M., Nomburg Jason, Gurjao Carino, Manders Freek, Dalmasso Guillaume, Stege Paul B., Paganelli Fernanda L., Geurts Maarten H., Beumer Joep, Mizutani Tomohiro, Miao Yi, van der Linden Reinier, van der Elst Stefan, Ambrose J. C., Arumugam P., Baple E. L., Bleda M., Boardman-Pretty F., Boissiere J. M., Boustred C. R., Brittain H., Caulfield M. J., Chan G. C., Craig C. E.H., Daugherty L. C., de Burca A., Devereau A., Elgar G., Foulger R. E., Fowler T., Furió-Tarí P., Hackett J. M., Halai D., Hamblin A., Henderson S., Holman J. E., Hubbard T. J.P., Ibáñez K., Jackson R., Smith K. R., Thompson S. R., Top Janetta, Willems Rob J.L., Cuppen Edwin, van Boxtel Ruben, Clevers Hans, 27 feb 2020, In: Nature. 580 , p. 269-273 5 p.

Plasmids shaped the recent emergence of the major nosocomial pathogen Enterococcus faecium

Arredondo-Alonso S., Top J., McNally A., Puranen S., Pesonen M., Pensar J., Marttinen P., Braat J. C., Rogers M. R.C., van Schaik W., Kaski S., Willems R. J.L., Corander J., Schürch A. C. 11 feb 2020, In: mBio. 11 17 p.

All research output

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