09:51pm Saturday 19 October 2019

New MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection will focus on fight against global bacterial infections

Bacterial infections cause a huge burden of disease throughout the world and kill many millions of people and animals. These pathogens cause diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and meningitis, as well as genito-urinary and blood infections. Bacterial pathogens are also responsible for many of the infections acquired in hospitals and for some ‘old’ diseases, including tuberculosis (TB), which is now on the increase in many parts of the world. Resistance to antibiotics is now widespread among bacteria and is increasing at an alarming rate.

The MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection will use multi-disciplinary approaches and cutting edge techniques to study bacterial infections at atomic, cellular and organism levels, with the aim of finding ways of developing new antibiotics, combating antibiotic resistance and developing effective vaccines. The new Centre will span Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences and its Department of Medicine. It will be the only centre of its kind in the world focusing specifically on the study of disease-causing bacteria.

The Centre will also specialise in training both young academics and clinically qualified researchers in bacterial pathogenesis in order to address the current lack of UK-trained expertise in the field. Imperial is contributing funding for six new lectureship posts at the Centre.

Professor David Holden, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, and Director of the new Centre, said:

“Although bacterial infections continue to cause immense human suffering and mortality throughout the world, recent advances – particularly in genomic, biochemical and imaging techniques – have enabled rapid progress to be made in understanding how bacteria cause disease at the molecular level. This new Centre will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to help drive this work, and we expect that the insights gained will help in the rational design of new vaccines and antibacterial drugs, which are badly needed.”

The Centre will use a special imaging instrument to study colonisation of bacterial pathogen infection in living hosts in real time. The technology has already allowed researchers at Imperial to make important discoveries about the way infection spreads throughout an animal’s body and how its system responds to the infection.

Professor Doreen Cantrell, Chair of the MRC’s Infections and Immunity Board, commented:

 “There has been enormous progress in understanding the genetic and biochemical basis of bacterial virulence and host resistance in recent years but these diseases still kill millions of people every year. The MRC is committed to funding this extremely important area and to building on the successes already achieved by researchers at Imperial. The MRC CMBI will undoubtedly be a world centre of excellence in the field.”

The following video shows how the new in vivo imaging facility has already been used to reveal new information about how infections like the E. coli-like mouse pathogen Citrobacter rodentium progress through the animal’s body during an 11-day infection of the gut. In the accompanying audio, Professor Gad Frankel from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, how the new facility is making a difference to his research, and narrates what can be seen in the video. https://icseclzt.cc.ic.ac.uk/pickup.php?claimID=eSyFoNCxuqFDZjEp&claimPasscode=8Tjfz5wpSmV2aDc2&emailAddr=s.levey%40imperial.ac.uk

Medical Research Council

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