July 18, 2018  Print

A student from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research won the first place poster prize at the annual Australian Society for Microbiology Scientific Meeting.

Alma Wu and supervisor Dr Muhammad Kamruzzaman

Alma Wu, a first year PhD student at the University of Sydney, presented a poster on antibiotic resistance in Enterobacteriaceae, a group of bacteria responsible for a number of common infections.

Last year, the World Health Organization listed this group as a priority for developing new antibiotics, due to increasing antibiotic resistance. Alma hopes that her research can help reduce this risk. 

Enterobacteriaceae cause a number of infections that are commonly seen in hospitals, such as urinary tract infections and sepsis, so it’s important to ensure we have antibiotics that can treat these infections,” Alma explained.

“I’m researching how we could make bacteria sensitive to existing antibiotics so that medication is once again effective at combatting potentially lethal infections.”

Currently, Alma is researching extrachromosomal DNA elements called plasmids, the main carriers of resistance in Enterobacteriaceae, in two species of bacteria – Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. She will look for differences in the functions of systems carried on these plasmids to establish whether there are differences based on the species of bacteria.

She will then investigate how researchers can displace plasmids carrying resistance from bacteria, restoring the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Alma enjoyed attending the conference and meeting other researchers in her field.

“I’ve attended a few scientific meetings before, but this was the first time I’ve attended one in microbiology,” she said.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my research, and learn from others in my field.”

Alma is supervised by Professor Jon Iredell and Dr Muhammad Kamruzzaman.