Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hi all!

Merry Christmas! (or if you are in the US, Happy Holidays!)


Lots of new games to play amongst these presents!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

New type of bacterial drug efflux pump

My PhD research back in the 1990s focused on investigating how Golden Staph becomes resistant to antibiotics and antiseptics. That research described some of the first known bacterial multidrug efflux pumps- proteins that sit in the bacterial cell membrane and can pump antimicrobial compounds out of the cell.

Since that time, our situation has worsened so that we now have highly multidrug resistant "Super Bugs" that are resistant to nearly all available treatment options. The World Health Organisation has recently declared that antibiotic resistance is one of the three greatest threats to human health.

It has been estimated that drug resistant Super Bugs add as much as 20 billion US dollars per year to direct healthcare costs in the USA.

We have just published a paper in PNAS where we investigate resistance to chlorhexidine in the hospital pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that is very commonly used in soaps, handwashes, and mouthwashes. Using genomic approaches we identified a gene of unknown function that was highly expressed when cells were exposed to chlorhexidine. Further work revealed this gene encodes a new type of drug efflux pump. This is the first new type of bacterial drug efflux pump discovered in over a decade. This work was undertaken in collaboration with Peter Henderson's group at the University of Leeds. We are continuing this collaboration to investigate the structure of this efflux pump and how it binds chlorhexidine, opening up the possibility of designing inhibitors that would interfere with the pump.

We've received some coverage in the media-

- Aged Care Insite Superbug secret revealed

It is clearly a Super Bug, it has a cape! (Note- this is actually a plush Golden Staph)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

ASPAB Conference

I am generally not known for being a morning person. So it was a bit of a shock to my system, when I had to get up at 4 am in Melbourne last week in order to get the first flight in the morning back to Sydney, and then a taxi straight to the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS). Fortunately, there were no flight delays, so I was able to make it in time to give a keynote talk at the Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany (ASPAB). First time I've actually visited SIMS, it's a beautiful location; and it was an interesting meeting to attend.

View from ASPAB at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science

Christmas comes Early at Macquarie

The Paulsen lab group went out today for an early Christmas lunch today. There's a new bowling alley and laser tag skirmish place opening at the Macquarie Shipping Centre, where we had hoped to go for our Christmas outing, but unfortunately its not open yet. So, it was burgers instead for Christmas this year!

Nothing says Christmas like burgers!

Monash Microbiology 50th Anniversary

One reason I am running behind on my blog is that the last couple of weeks have been a frenzy of travel and talks. This included attending the Monash Microbiology Department 50th anniversary function, otherwise known as Monash Bugs R50 for the twitter literate. This event was held at Deakin Edge at Federation Square in Melbourne, a cool venue with funky modern architecture. There were four talks given by former Monash graduates, including myself, and several talks from current Monash faculty about their future directions. This was a formal event so shockingly enough, I was there in a suit (sorry no photographic proof). Several people asked how they got me out of my usual leather jacket, and my answer was that I had it surgically removed.

There was a great turnout with more than 200 attendees including many retired former staff of the department, so it was a great opportunity for catching up with old friends and colleagues, particularly since the event finished with cocktail party. There were also lots of photos projected on the big screen from across the fifty years of the department history, including many with scary hair from the 60s and 70s.

My talk basically told the story of how my scientific career has been shaped from experiences and interests from my time as an Honours and PhD student with Ron Skurray's research group at Monash Microbiology. One of the other speakers was Mark Schembri, who was in the same Honours class as me (see photographic evidence below) and is now a Professor at the University of Queensland.

I thought it was a great event, and an honour to be invited to talk. It was great fun catching up with many people I haven't seen for decades.

Clearly an excellent year for Microbiology Honours students- I'm the tallish person roughly in the middle; Mark Schembri is second on the right from me
A Skurray lab group meeting in late 1989 or early 1990. That's me in the middle with way too much hair, a Violent Femmes T-shirt and scarily bright red shoes. Also pictured from left to right- Ron Skurray, Dario DiBerardino and Linda Messerotti,

Cocktail party after the scientific talks
The venue at Deakin Edge, Federation Square