Project No. 2381
Dr Marina Ezcurra- University of Kent
Kieron Edwards – Sibelius Natural Products (CASE Partner)
BIOFILMS ENABLE ADAPTATION OF PATHOGENS TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change and antimicrobial resistance are the greatest threats to humankind. Higher temperatures and extreme weather increase proliferation of pathogens and prevalence of infectious diseases, as pathogens can adapt quickly to environmental changes. One microbial adaptation is formation of BIOFILMS- hardy matrices that stick to surfaces. Biofilms protect pathogens from environmental stresses, including droughts and high temperatures; climate change will result in an increase of biofilm-forming pathogens. Ability to produce biofilms is of major concern because during infection pathogens in biofilms are protected against immunity and antibiotics.
NEW APPROACHES TO STUDY BIOFILMS
Microbiological research focuses on planktonic bacteria, which are physiologically different to biofilms, generating antimicrobials that often lack efficiency within biofilm infections. Biofilm measurements are performed in vitro, without representation of biofilm-host interactions. The lack of physiological relevance greatly reduces the translatability and limits antibiotic development. A major hurdle in targeting biofilms is the lack of laboratory models that mimic biofilms in host tissues. In this project we will develop new approaches to study biofilms in vivo, using the nematode C. elegans, a well-established whole-animal infection model.
PLANTS – A SOURCE OF ANTI-BIOFILM COMPOUNDS
Plants produce a vast range of compounds to defend themselves against pathogens, including anti-biofilm and immunity-boosting compounds. There is an opportunity to develop new anti-biofilm strategies derived from inexpensive and highly abundant plant material. Using our C. elegans in vivo model, we will identify anti-biofilm and pro-immunity properties of plant compounds.
Antibiotic-resistant pathogens kill hundreds of thousands of people every year; with climate change numbers will rise. At the same time, biomedical research contributes to climate change by generating carbon emissions and waste. We will develop inexpensive, sustainable models to build research capacity and innovation in academia and industry, reducing laboratory carbon footprint and tackle pathogenic biofilms.
This is an excellent opportunity for a curious and ambitious PhD candidate who enjoys collaborative research bridging teams and novel approaches. We offer training in multiple disciplines in an excellent research environment interacting with multiple vibrant research groups.