Projects

Bacteriocin Drug Discovery
Our primary research focus is in the discovery and development of bacteriocins for use in human and animal health and agricultural applications. We have studies focused on the discovery of bacteriocins active against several human pathogens, including Mycobacteria tuberculosis (Tuberculosis), Escherichia coli (Catheter Aquired Urinary Tract Infections), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Cystic Fibrosis) and Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections). Our more recent work is focused on the application of bacteriocins in agriculture, including Pseudomonas syringae (Bacterial speck), Erwinia amylovora (Fire blight) and Ralstonia spp (Bacterial wilt).

The Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance
We are also interested in understanding the source of the diversity of resistance determinants seen in clinical isolates of pathogenic bacteria. Numerous studies have suggested that these genes arise in a clinical setting in response to human-mediated antibiotic usage while more recent studies reveal that the environment can also serve as a reservoir for resistance determinants. Our approach here has been to investigate the relationship between environmentally- and clinically-derived resistance determinants by examining their molecular evolutionary history. Our research has revealed a vast reservoir of resistance genes in wild populations of bacteria while further phylogenetic analysis undercuts the notion of a separate reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes confined only to clinical settings. We have found, however, that strong levels of positive selection among antibiotic resistance genes (mutations that expand activity against multiple antibiotics) exist only in clinical populations. We argue that a more comprehensive exploration of the environmental reservoir is likely to shed light on the emergence and evolution of genes conferring resistance to antibiotics.

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