The inability to prevent and control the covid-19 pandemic has shown that we still have a poor understanding of how infectious agents emerge and evolve. With increasing antibiotic resistance, disease outbreaks with untreatable virulent bacteria are becoming a significantly more imminent threat. Yet, we still have little ability to predict what the sources may be for such virulent bacterial strains. Outside of the most common bacterial pathogens, we also have a very limited understanding of which genes that cause and exaggerate pathogenicity, which makes data driven monitoring in order to prevent disease outbreaks extremely challenging.
Many of the genes involved in pathogenicity and virulence seem to have evolved from genes with other, often somewhat related, functions. Building on this, our research in this area aims to understand which genes that render bacteria pathogenic based on the hypothesis that genes involved in related processes can be repurposed as virulence factors in other contexts.
Open questions of interest
- What are the genetic determinants of successful bacterial colonization and invasion?
- Which genes are important for outcompeting resident communities and invade tissues?
- How can beneficial bacteria contribute to fending off unwanted ones in, for example, the human microbiome?
- Guzman-Otazo J, Gonzales-Siles L, Poma V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Thorell K, Flach C-F, Iñiguez V, Sjöling Å: Diarrheal bacterial pathogens and multi-resistant enterobacteria in the Choqueyapu River in La Paz, Bolivia. PLoS ONE, 14, 1, e0210735 (2019). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210735[Paper link]
- Forsell J, Bengtsson-Palme J, Angelin M, Johansson A, Evengård B, Granlund M: The relation between Blastocystis and the intestinal microbiota in Swedish travellers. BMC Microbiology, 17, 231 (2017). doi: 10.1186/s12866-017-1139-7 [Paper link]
- Thorell K, Bengtsson-Palme J, Liu OH, Gonzales RVP, Nookaew I, Rabeneck L, Paszat L, Graham DY, Nielsen J, Lundin SB, Sjöling Å: In vivo analysis of the viable microbiota and Helicobacter pylori transcriptome in gastric infection and early stages of carcinogenesis. Infection and Immunity, 85, 10, e00031-17 (2017). doi: 10.1128/IAI.00031-17 [Paper link]