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Collaboration between NZ and Chinese scientists boosts fight against antibiotic resistance

Friday 4 December 2020 11:03am

Iain Lamont China Collaboration_650

A New Zealand–Chinese collaboration researching the treatment of bacterial infections with new combinations of old antibiotic drugs is to be funded by the Health Research Council.

Professor Iain Lamont’s life work is the study of a nasty bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

This bacterium is responsible for many of the infections that patients pick up in hospital, particularly patients with burns, wounds, skin infections, or prosthetic devices inserted into their bodies. Patients with cystic fibrosis are also particularly at risk for P. aeruginosa infections. Treating P. aeruginosa is difficult, especially because it is becoming resistant to a range of existing antibiotics.

Iain’s research group uses a wide range of biochemical, molecular biological, and genetic approaches to study P. aeruginosa and what makes it so infectious.

Doctors sometimes try to avoid making infectious bacteria resistant to antibiotics by using more than one antibiotic treatment at the same time, but the best way to combine different treatments for P. aeruginosa has not yet been fully explored.

Iain and his colleagues, all highly experienced in research into antibiotic resistance and P. aeruginosa disease, are planning to address this. They include Dr Daniel Pletzer from the Otago Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Professor Weihui Wu and Associate Professor Yongxin Jin, both of Nankai University, Tianjin, China.

The team will figure out what combinations are best at stopping resistant bacteria from developing, and look in detail at the genes of bacteria that do become resistant and the genetic mutations responsible for the resistance.

In particular, they want to understand exactly how P. aeruginosa bacteria can evolve during infection to survive two simultaneous antibiotic treatments.

The NZ-China Biomedical Research Alliance grant funding this research supports the development of research collaborations between NZ and Chinese researchers, and provides Iain and Daniel’s research groups with a budget of $404,000 over three years.

The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the New Zealand Health Research Council (along with the NZ Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment) jointly decide which research project will receive the grant. The Chinese Ministry provides funding to support the Chinese part of the collaboration.

You can find out more about research in the laboratories of Professor Lamont and Dr Pletzer here:

Professor Iain Lamont’s research

Dr Daniel Pletzer's research

Photo: from left, Dr Daniel Pletzer, Professor Iain Lamont, Professor Weihui Wu (inset), and Associate Professor Yongxin Jin (inset).