Quadram Institute to lead collaborative research in bacterial genetics
Researchers from the Quadram Institute, the University of East Anglia, and the University of Technology in Sydney are developing a new platform to get an in-depth view of how bacteria can develop resistance to common household products.
This collaborative research initiative is being conducted by Quadram Institute at the Norwich Research Park and involves developing a new platform technology to study how bacteria survive and grow following exposure to various stress-inducing conditions.
The technology, called TraDIS-Xpress, builds upon the existing Transponson-Directed Insertion-site Sequencing (TraDIS) method to identify the sensitivity of bacterial genes to the household antimicrobial compound triclosan which is found in numerous household cleaning products such as soaps, mouthwashes, shampoos, cosmetics, and toothpastes.
Expanding on that, TraDIS-Xpress can also perform further tests by analysing how bacterial genes function in an in-depth manner. The platform can be used to find new antimicrobial agents by identifying how antibiotics act against bacteria. It can also develop better bacteria to be used in probiotics to be used in health products.
This innovative study will enable scientists to gain more knowledge of the specific functions of different genes found in bacteria. Prior to this, modern DNA sequencing technology allowed scientists to identify all the genes in any type of bacteria but how exactly these genes functioned was mostly unknown.
The TraDIS-Xpress platform applies two fundamental approaches in bacterial genetics, mutation and gene expression to be able to simultaneously assess all the genes in a target organism.
Tests can then be performed to study the survival and growth of the candidate organism by introducing external DNA to act as a ‘promoter’ which will either disrupt the target gene’s function (mutation) or change the rate of production of the target gene (expression).
By using this approach, a wide range of bacteria can be studied and scientists will be able to understand and predict how different types of bacteria are able to survive and grow amidst various conditions.
“We now have a tool which can efficiently assay all the genes in a genome for roles in any given stress situation. Our work on triclosan shows that this platform will help us understand how bacteria work and we hope to use this approach to address important problems such as the fight against antimicrobial resistance and how to produce better ‘good bacteria’ to help protect our health,” said Quadram Institute’s Director Professor Ian Charles and Dr Mark Webber who are also leading this research project.
The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)