Research Australia INSPIRE Issue 11

Page 44


Genomics researchers are shedding new light on common bacterial infections and the complexity surrounding the global spread of antimicrobial resistance.


rinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are among the world’s most common bacterial infections, affecting around 50 per cent of women and five per cent of men. They can present as low-level cystitis or cause debilitating and potentially life-threatening conditions such as blood sepsis and kidney infection. Each year, treatment costs run to billions of dollars worldwide. And they’re becoming harder to treat, as the E. coli bacteria responsible for the infections become increasingly resistant to multiple antibiotics. According to new research from the Australian Centre for Genomic Epidemiological Microbiology (Ausgem), a partnership between the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the NSW 44  INSPIRE 011 | 2019

Department of Primary Industries, the clue could well lie in the food we eat. “Avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) cause significicant economic losses to poultry production. There’s also a growing body of evidence that some subsets of these avian pathogens have potential to cause disease in humans,” explains Ausgem’s UTS research lead, Professor Steven Djordjevic. “APEC carry genetic elements called plasmids, which contribute to their ability to cause disease. Interestingly, these plasmids can move around between bacteria of the same species and between other gut-inhabiting bacteria and capture drug resistant genes as they go, with the potential to create new hybrid virulent strains.”