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Decoding microbial ‘cross talk’ in polymicrobial infections

Project Description

A significant proportion of human infections are caused by microbial pathogens. These organisms interact socially to build highly organized, well-coordinated, hierarchical structures known as biofilms. Biofilms are often polymicrobial, ubiquitous and range from those found within industrial water pipes to dental plaque in humans. Biofilm-embedded microbes, as opposed to their suspended or planktonic counterparts, are highly resistant to antimicrobial compounds and host defenses. Clinically, polymicrobial biofilm infections account for over 80% of all human infections, constituting an overwhelming healthcare burden. For instance, in the USA, biofilm infections associated with central venous catheters (CVC) result in some 100,000 deaths annually, costing $6.5 billion. Moreover, the global crisis of emerging antimicrobial resistance highlights the growing challenge of successfully eliminating polymicrobial biofilm infections with the current armory of antimicrobials.
The severity and outcome of polymicrobial infections can be predicted not only by the pathogenic composition of the biofilm, but also by the specific physical and chemical interactions of the microbes residing in the biofilm. Quorum sensing (QS) is one such chemical messenger system used by microorganisms to `talk` with one another. QS plays a quintessential role in the maintenance of a healthy biofilm community. However, the role of QS in the pathophysiology of the infective process and emergence of antimicrobial resistance remains poorly understood. This project will investigate the molecular interplay and chemical cross talk between microbial biofilm residents using a multidisciplinary approach. The findings are likely to be useful in designing focused strategies and tools for preventing and eliminating life-threatening biofilm infections worldwide.

Funding Notes

All applicants are advised to detail in their application how they intend to fund their studies. We encourage those who have their own funding or who wish to apply for their own funding.


• Nobile CJ, Johnson AD. 2015. Annu Rev Microbiol 69:71-92
• Stacy A, McNally L, Darch SE, Brown SP, Whiteley M. 2016. Nat Rev Microbiol 14:93-105
• Bandara HMHN, Lam OL, Jin LJ, Samaranayake L. 2012. Crit Rev Microbiol 38:217-49

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