Tall Poppy winner 'weeds out' bacterial superbugs

August 21, 2016

QUT molecular microbiologist Makrina Totsika is at the forefront of research to develop new therapies to beat multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Dr Totsika, from QUT's Institute of Health Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), was named joint Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year, alongside UQ's Dr Barnaby Dixson.

Dr Totsika and Dr Dixson were each awarded $7,500 in support of their research.

"My work aims to understand how superbugs cause disease and design new drugs against them," Dr Totsika said.

"Through a unique approach of disarming rather than killing superbugs, we are now developing a new class of drugs that can treat antibiotic-resistant infections."

Dr Totsika leads a team of research students and staff investigating the pathogenesis of superbugs and new ways of preventing them from sticking to host cells, which is the first step of the infection process.

More than 700,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide with numbers predicted to reach up to 10 million annual deaths by 2050, if nothing is done.

Due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, many bacteria causing diseases such as urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, foodborne diarrhoea and tuberculosis are now resistant to most available antibiotics.

"Resistance is a natural phenomenon as old as bacteria but antibiotic overuse and misuse has led to the alarming rates of resistance we see today worldwide," Dr Totsika said.

Her research is aimed at targeting a pathogen's adherence to cells and evaluating several inhibitors that block bacterial adhesion.

"By understanding this, it now guides us in developing novel anti-adhesion therapeutics that can block bacterial adherence and be used to treat infections," she said.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Dr Totsika and collaborators demonstrated that oral inhibitors of a bacterial adhesin -- a protein that allows bacteria to recognise bladder cells and bind to them -- could be used to successfully prevent and treat multidrug resistant urinary tract infection in preclinical animal models.

Through two ongoing National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grants involving collaboration with leading experts in Australia and the US, Dr Totsika's research is expected to lead to next-generation antimicrobials that will be tailored to each patient's infection.

Dr Totsika is currently supported by a QUT Vice-Chancellor's Senior Research Fellowship in infectious diseases.

Dr Totsika is also passionate about promoting public understanding of science and is actively involved in QUT's School Engagement Program where high-school students are hosted in her lab in Brisbane each year for a weeklong research internship on "hairy scary bugs."
Media contacts:

Debra Nowland
QUT media officer
(Mon/Wed/Thurs) 07-3138-1150

After hours:

Rose Trapnell
0407 585 901

Queensland University of Technology

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.