Inter-microbial warfare may help overcome antimicrobial resistance



Heriot-Watt University features in a £2.7 million award for a cross-institutional collaboration effort to investigate whether a 'nanoweapon' could be deployed in the global battle against antimicrobial resistance that is being led by The University of Dundee.

The World Health Organisation recently ranked antimicrobial resistance as one of the ten biggest threats to global health. As such, there is an urgent need to develop new treatments to prevent millions of lives being lost to diseases that are routinely treated with drugs such as antibiotics at present.

Dundee's Dr Sarah Coulthurst and colleagues at Dundee, Heriot-Watt, Newcastle and Exeter universities and the Hans Knöll Institute in Germany have received a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award to study the Type VI secretion system, a piece of molecular machinery that can be used by bacteria to kill fungal cells.

This cross-institution collaboration hopes to discover exactly how this inter-microbial warfare works so that they can harness the machinery to develop better ways to tackle infections caused by bacteria and fungi.

Leading the research for Heriot-Watt University is Dr Colin Rickman of the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering.  He said: “This exciting project will use the state-of-the-art microscopy equipment of the Edinburgh Super-resolution Imaging Consortium (ESRIC) based at Heriot-Watt to observe bacteria attacking and killing fungi with unprecedented clarity”

“We hope that understanding how bacteria can kill fungi might allow us to develop better ways to tackle antimicrobial-resistant infections caused by both bacteria and fungi.”[RC1] 

Antimicrobial resistance refers to the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses and certain fungi) to stop antimicrobials (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals), from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

This year, Heriot-Watt is celebrating the Year of Health, promoting and sharing health-related research spanning biological engineering, biophysics, computer science, mathematical biology, cancer biology, psychology, environmental health, neuroscience, rehabilitation technologies and the design of age-friendly cities for resilient communities.

Read University of Dundee's story here -