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Microbiologists at the Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (SILS-UvA) have received nearly 400k funding from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to study mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in microbes. The research will be executed by a team lead by prof. dr. Stanley Brul and professor by special appointment dr. Benno ter Kuile.

Microbes, microbiology
Image: Pxhere

The danger of antibiotic resistance

The funding of 394.000 euro is meant to appoint a PhD candidate at the Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences on the strategic collaboration between NVWA and the research group Molecular Biology & Microbial Food Safety involving also the special chair of Prof. Benno ter Kuile. The PhD candidate will study the mechanism behind newly emerging antibiotic resistance in bacteria that play a role in food safety. This can emerge for example when relatively low concentrations of antibiotics are used in animal feed. Antibiotic resistance can create hazardous situations for healthcare; it can lead to antibiotics being useless against inflammations. Insights into the mechanism of newly developing resistance will provide understanding in what could be the Achilles heel for the bacteria in respect to defence against antimicrobial agents and contribute to design optimal treatment protocols leading to less resistance.

Finding the mechanism behind antibiotic resistance

The aim of the project is to document the chain of events within microbes that leads to development of so called “de novo” resistance upon exposure to antibiotics. Research on molecular mechanisms causing resistance is essential to understand the relationship between exposure and resistance. Several lines of research, including previous projects in the lab, have indicated that the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a common element in the sequence of events leading to cell death upon exposure to bactericidal antimicrobials. Cells die due to ROS-induced DNA damage and subsequent incorrect DNA repair. However, possibly the same DNA damage and incorrect repair might in rare cases lead to mutations that cause some bacteria to become resistant. These cells can grow out and outcompete other cells, leading to a pool of resistant microbes. Indeed, large numbers of mutations and DNA rearrangement have been observed during the process of de novo development of resistance. These mutations will be further investigated to understand the role of ROS-induced emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Amsterdam Microbiome Initiative

Prof. dr. Stanley Brul is one of the initiators of the Amsterdam Microbiome Initiative (AMI). The AMI is an initiative to bundle the expertise available in the Amsterdam area at the UvA, VU, Amsterdam UMC and ACTA. Its members have as aim to set up microbial consortia in biotechnological, biomedical and environmental settings using multidisciplinary approaches. Read more about the intiative at sils.uva.nl/ami