NBIC Brunel University London Partner to Receive BBSRC New Investigator Award

Research to understand how a deadly bacterium commonly found in intensive care units causes infection and survives antibiotic treatment has been given a £450,000 funding boost by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Dr Ronan McCarthy, a senior lecturer in biomedical sciences at Brunel University London and NBIC partner, will receive a three-year BBSRC New Investigator Award to study Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacteria identified by the World Health Organisation in 2018 as a top global priority for a treatment.

A. baumannii, as it is known, is an opportunistic bacteria that can infect individuals who are already sick, leading to a variety of life threatening health complications and even death. Prior to the 2000s, A. baumannii infections were relatively infrequent and typically treated with standard antibiotics. However, there has since been a rapid increase in the number of infections, with these infections becoming increasingly difficult to treat – up to 70% of A. baumannii now found in patients is antibiotic-resistant.

One key strategy that these bacteria use to stop antibiotics working properly against them is to form a ‘biofilm’ – a large community of cells that need up to 1,000 times more antibiotics to be killed. A. baumannii also has a remarkable ability to survive on surfaces like handrails, desks, hospital beds and ventilators for weeks at a time without food or water, increasing its ability to spread. Dr McCarthy said,

“Our work aims to characterise key genes and pathways that regulate the ability of A. baumannii to survive on dry surfaces and to form biofilms. We also aim to identify new drugs that will disrupt these survival mechanisms and that could potentially be the next generation of antibiotics needed to prevent a post-antibiotic era.”

For further information on Brunel’s Centre for Inflammation Research and Translational Medicine (CIRTM) please visit the Brunel University London website.