Māori health research PhD scholarship (2018 funding round)

Mr Howard Maxwell
University of Otago, Dunedin
Does inhibition of quorum sensing increase antibiotic resistance spread?
36 months

Lay summary

Infectious disease is a reemerging global challenge with a disproportionate burden in Māori compared to non-Māori. Furthermore, this problem is exacerbated by an increase in antimicrobial resistance and limited discovery of new antibiotics. Bacteria can communicate through quorum sensing, a mechanism that can coordinate population behaviour and expression of virulence factors. Therefore, many researchers are investigating strategies that prevent bacterial communication, thereby reducing virulence and infection. Bacteria are equipped with CRISPR-Cas systems that prevent the spread of mobile genetic elements, thereby preventing the acquisition of these antimicrobial resistance genes. CRISPR-Cas systems have recently been show to be under the control of quorum sensing. Treatments that block quorum sensing may have unintended consequences resulting in the increased spread or retention of antibiotic resistance genes. Therefore, In this project I will examine how bacterial communication controls the spread and acquisition of antibiotic resistance genes through the control of CRISPR-Cas activity.

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