FBS academic £250,000 award from research council

Dr Alex O'Neil has been featured as an award winner in the Times Higher Education publication for his research into silent antibiotic resistance genes.

‘Silent’ antibiotic resistance genes: an overlooked issue of considerable importance in antibacterial chemotherapy?

Antibiotics’ utility is decreasing as bacteria evolve to resist their effects, with antibiotic resistance now considered one of the three greatest threats to human health. A crucial aspect of addressing this problem is “strategic intelligence” – having current information about the proportion, in a given location, of bacterial strains resistant to particular antibiotics. This allows doctors to decide which antibiotics are best to use routinely to treat bacterial infection, and to avoid those that will probably be ineffective owing to resistance. This project will focus on investigating the phenomenon of “silencing of antibiotic resistance by mutation” (SARM) that may be undermining strategic intelligence on antibiotic resistance. Recent work has discovered that some bacteria that are sensitive to antibiotics nonetheless carry genes normally associated with antibiotic resistance, but that these genes have become switched off (“silenced”). This is deeply concerning, as bacteria with SARM would appear susceptible to an antibiotic when tested, but could then become resistant during patient treatment. Focusing on the “superbug” Staphylococcus aureus, the project aims to investigate how widespread SARM is among bacteria and how it occurs.

For more information on Dr Alex O'Neils  work click here