Carnegie PhD Scholar awarded Robertson Medal, 2020-21
Project Title: Elucidating alternative mechanisms of methicillin resistance in pathogenic staphylococci
Antibiotics have saved the lives of millions of people. Unfortunately, the bacterial bugs that are treated by antibiotics are becoming resistant to these drugs and this is stopping the antibiotics from working. Because of this antibiotic resistance, it is now becoming harder to cure some infections and in rare cases, some infections are now almost untreatable. This situation will only become worse if the increase and spread of antibiotic resistant bugs continues.
One approach for science and medicine to tackle this major problem is to research how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. This better understanding can help doctors to diagnose antibiotic resistant bacteria and to help scientists to design new antibiotics.
My Research Incentive Grant investigated what makes the hospital superbug MRSA resistant to antibiotics. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and it can cause a wide range of different infections including life-threatening conditions. Methicillin resistance can make this bug difficult to treat and is caused by the bacteria picking up a new gene called mecA. However, there are reports of other forms of methicillin resistance where MRSA does not have the mecA gene. These bugs can cause problems in the diagnostic laboratory and may lead to antibiotic resistance being overlooked.
The Carnegie Trust project studied a collection of bacteria like this which were methicillin resistant but which lacked the mecA gene. The study used genome sequencing to look at the DNA blueprint of these bacteria and identified new mutations and genes in the bacteria that are associated with antibiotic resistance. We are now studying these mutations and genes to confirm their role in antibiotic resistance and to understand how they make the bacteria resistant to antibiotics. When these studies are finished, we will share our results by publishing them in a scientific journal.
Awarded: Research Incentive Grant
Field: Microbiology, Immunology & Developmental Biology
University: University of Edinburgh