Research projects funded in BristolBridge's second funding round

Six new interdisciplinary projects were awarded funds in the second funding round in February. The 3 month projects are due to commence in spring and summer 2016. The projects are: 

Early phase development of a primary care device to detect rapidly antibiotic resistance in common bacteria

Massimo Antognozzi (Physics), Ariel Blocker (Cellular and Molecular Medicine), Helen Baxter (South Gloucestershire and North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Groups for Urgent Care) and Niamh Redmond (Social and Community Medicine).

This project will test whether unique sensors developed at the University of Bristol can potentially detect antibiotic resistance with enough speed and efficiency to be incorporated into a point of care diagnostic device that could be used in the primary care setting (GP surgeries). The project will test the hypothesis using urine samples as the proposed target population are elderly individuals (65 years plus) with a urinary tract infection (UTI). This project is in a very early phase, but if this initial work proves fruitful, there is great potential to develop this into a device that could impact on population health, GP consultation rates and unnecessary admissions to hospital

A systems-based platform for the production of novel antibiotics

Gary Foster (Biological Sciences), Andy Bailey (Biological Sciences), Colin Lazarus (Biological Sciences), Chris Willis (Chemistry), Julian Gough (Computer Science) and Paul Race (Biochemistry)

This project will explore a new molecule recently discovered by the team which is highly related to the tricyclic diterpene antibiotic pleuromutilin. This molecule appears to have a significantly different structure and thus has the potential to be developed as a completely new mode of action and a much needed new antibiotic. The project will characterise this new molecule in more detail to determine its full spectrum of antimicrobial activity and to provide insights into its potential novel mode of action and possible development as a new antimicrobial compound.    

Identifying single bacteria through their acoustic Raman signatures

Henkjan Gersen (Physics) and Matthew Avison (Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

There is a clear need to develop approaches that can rapidly detect, count and characterise low concentrations of bacteria in clinical volumes of blood. However, optical characterisation of individual bacteria in such volumes is challenging due to their weak optical signals and the fact that their bio-molecular composition is similar to that of other cells in blood. In this project, Dr Gersen and Dr Avison aim to investigate whether detection of ultra-low acoustic vibrational modes of molecular complexes in bacteria can be used to detect, count and identify individual bacteria based on our expertise in ultrasensitive detection schemes. Combined with micro-fluidic separation of bacteria this label-free detection scheme has the potential to detect single bacteria in clinical volumes of blood on short timescales.

Towards a flexible and multi-use databank for veterinary AMR research

Kristen Reyher (Veterinary Sciences), Seth Bullock (Computer Science), Andrea Turner, (Veterinary Sciences), Katy Turner (Social and Community Medicine & Veterinary Sciences), David Tisdall (Veterinary Sciences), Tristan Cogan (Veterinary Sciences), Martin Homer (Engineering Mathematics) and Ben Sach (Computer Science).   

Large AMR surveillance and analysis schemes are desperately needed in the livestock sector. In this initial work, Reyher and colleagues will design a flexible, extensible, and simple data repository for a biobank of faecal samples and associated data collection. Data collected so far will help this project in its aims to: 1) characterise correlations between antimicrobial use and the presence of AMR on farms, and, 2) evaluate associated risk factors for AMR on farms, including extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). Research collaborations with major livestock veterinary practices, milk processors and retailer supermarkets across the UK are underway, and the proposed study will develop the better storage, linkage and use of data that is needed. The data collection is expected to scale up precipitously and stands to collect perhaps hundreds of farms' data in the very near future, which will form the basis of a much larger, and potentially externally funded, study.

Investigating electrostatic capture of bacteria using the electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance

Walther Schwarzacher (Physics), Sara Correia Carreira (Physics) and Jim Spencer (Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

The rapid detection and identification of bacteria based on microfluidic devices requires that bacteria are concentrated from large volumes of urine and blood, for example, into much smaller ones. The investigators have already shown that positively charged magnetic nanoparticles rapidly magnetised Escherichia coli and Staphyloccus aureus by electrostatic adsorption to their negatively charged cell surface. As a result, the team were able to capture and concentrate magnetised bacteria with high efficiency. In this project, the team will determine whether capture and concentration can be achieved without the magnetisation step by direct electrostatic immobilisation of the negatively charged bacterial cells onto a positively charged surface using an electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance (E-QCM), using an existing flow set up. The project aims to determine the bacterial capture and release efficiency of this novel method, as well as providing information relevant to biofilm formation on differently charged surfaces.    

Novel ways of improving antibiotic delivery to promote the direct killing of Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Darryl Hill (Cellular and Molecular Medicine), John Crosby (Chemistry), Seth Bullock (Computer Science), Adam Perriman (Cellular and Molecular Medicine), Tim Craggs (Biochemistry), Paddy Horner (Social and Community Medicine), Katy Turner (Social and Community Medicine & Veterinary Sciences), Martin Williams (Bristol Royal Infirmary) and Peter Muir (Public Health England)

With 106 million infections worldwide each year, the cause of gonorrhoea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a significant burden to human health. The lack of a vaccine leaves antibiotics as the only means to combat disease. Worryingly, gonorrhoea may soon become untreatable through multi-drug resistance. In 2015, the spread of a highly drug resistant strain of N. gonnorhoeae around the north of England triggered a national public health alert. This project will explore novel ways of improving antibiotic delivery to promote the direct killing of N. gonorrhoeae.

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