World's first centre to focus on bacteria that cause diseases


e. coli bacteria

Scientists can detect e. coli bacteria inside infected bodies

A new centre based at Imperial and funded by the (MRC) and Imperial, will provide a "centre of excellence" in the fight against bacterial infections

A new centre based at Imperial College London, and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Imperial, will provide a “centre of excellence” in the fight against bacterial infections, many of which have undergone a significant rise in recent years.

Bacterial infections cause a huge burden of disease throughout the world and kill many millions of people and animals. They cause diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and meningitis, as well as genito-urinary and blood infections.  They are also responsible for many of the infections acquired in hospitals and for some ‘old’ diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), which is now on the increase in many parts of the world. Resistance to antibiotics is now widespread among bacteria and is increasing at an alarming rate.

The new MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection will use multi-disciplinary approaches and cutting edge techniques to study bacterial infections at the levels of atom, cell and organism, with the aim of finding ways of developing new antibiotics, combating antibiotic resistance and developing effective vaccines. The new Centre will span Imperial’s Departments of Life Sciences and Medicine. It will be the only one of its kind in the world to focus specifically on disease-causing bacteria.

The Centre will also specialise in training young academics and clinically qualified researchers in bacterial pathogenesis in order to address the current lack of UK-trained expertise in the field. Imperial is contributing funding for six new lectureship posts at the Centre.

Professor David Holden, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, and Director of the new Centre, said: Although bacterial infections continue to cause immense human suffering and mortality throughout the world, recent advances - particularly in genomic, biochemical and imaging techniques - have enabled rapid progress to be made in understanding how bacteria cause disease at the molecular level.

“This new Centre will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to help drive this work, and we expect that the insights gained will help in the rational design of new vaccines and antibacterial drugs, which are badly needed."

The Centre will use a special imaging instrument to watch how bacterial infections colonise living hosts in real time. The technology has already enabled researchers at Imperial to make important discoveries about the way infection spreads throughout an animal’s body and how the animal responds to infection.

Watch the video (above) to see how the in vivo imaging facility reveals new information on how a mouse bacterial infection spreads through the animal’s body. In the film, Professor Gad Frankel from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences and manager of the new facility narrates the course of infection by the E. coli-like mouse pathogen Citrobacter rodentium over a period of 11 days.

“This new equipment will provide a whole new dimension of information for helping us develop new ways of fighting bacterial infections,” said Professor Frankel. “By enabling us to film living hosts in real time, the technology also means we can significantly reduce the number of mice used in this work.”

Professor Doreen Cantrell, Chair of the MRC’s Infections and Immunity Board, commented: "There has been enormous progress in understanding the genetic and biochemical basis of bacterial virulence and host resistance in recent years but these diseases still kill millions of people every year. The MRC is committed to funding this extremely important area and to building on the successes already achieved by researchers at Imperial.  The MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection will undoubtedly be a world centre of excellence in the field."

Adapted from a news release issued by the Medical Research Council, Monday 2 July 2012



Simon Levey

Simon Levey
Communications Division

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Animal-research, Drug-discovery, Infectious-diseases, Research
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