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Extracellular DNA repair: a role in antimicrobial resistance?

24 months
Approved budget:
Dr Adele Williamson
Dr Joanna Hicks
Health issue:
Infectious disease
Proposal type:
Explorer Grant
Lay summary
Antimicrobial resistance represents one of the greatest threats to society this century. We suspect that a recently-discovered DNA-ligase, an enzyme that joins pieces of DNA, is central to the ability of many pathogenic bacteria to gain resistance. This DNA-ligase is predicted to work outside the cell and is common in bacteria that can take up foreign DNA. We expect that the bacteria use this enzyme to repair DNA from the environment before taking it up, meaning that bigger chunks of DNA, such as genes for antimicrobial resistance, are available to the bacterium. We will study the function of this DNA-ligase in the human pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae to better understand its extraordinary ability to gain resistance to multiple antibiotics. This capacity to acquire antibiotic resistance has converted gonorrhoea from an easily-treatable infection to a multi-drug resistant ‘superbug,’ representing a global health problem and emerging disease threat in Aotearoa New Zealand.