7 October: Prize Lecture: “Air pollution is changing the behaviour of infectious bacteria”

Posted by dmrbp1 at May 16, 2019 12:25 PM |
Part of the College of Life Sciences public lecture series

Dr Julie Morrissey, Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, will give her lecture titled: “Air pollution is changing the behaviour of infectious bacteria”

Register here

Air pollution is a critical global problem causing an eighth of all deaths in the world.  Particulate matter (PM), a major component of air pollution, has the greatest impact on human health. PM consists of black carbon, a by-product of fossil fuel combustion from industrial and domestic burning and traffic exhausts, as well as non-exhaust PM such as vehicle brake-wear. PM exposure contributes to a range of diseases such as cancer, COPD, heart disease and stroke, and increases respiratory infections. Our ground-breaking studies were the first to show that as well as damaging the host, PM has a direct impact on bacteria that can cause respiratory infections. Our data show that exposure to PM results impacts bacterial colonisation, resulting in increased presence of these bacteria in the respiratory tract increasing their potential for infection. This bacterial response to PM occurs at the genetic level, altering the expression of key genes involved in host colonisation and virulence. This work has therefore uncovered a previously unknown mechanism behind the detrimental impact of air pollution on human health.


Dr Julie Morrissey graduated from University of Leicester with a BSc Biological Sciences degree before undertaking a Ph.D in Microbial Yeast Genetics in the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester. Following her PhD, she moved to the University of Nottingham as a Research Fellow working with Professor Paul Williams on iron homeostasis in Staphylococcus aureus. Julie returned to the University of Leicester as a lecturer in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology until 2014, when she moved to the Department of Genetics where she is currently an Associate Professor in Microbial Genetics. Julie’s primary research interests are the molecular mechanisms important for respiratory bacteria adaptation to air and metal pollution, and how this impacts virulence and antibiotic resistance. In 2017, her interdisciplinary team was the first in the world to show that air pollution alters the behaviour of bacteria, potentiating host colonisation. Recently, her group have also shown that that epidemic strains of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) possess an additional novel copper hyper-resistance mechanism that is essential for enhanced survival of MRSA against the host immune response. Julie is the co-Director of the Leicester Microbial Sciences and Infectious Diseases Research Centre which is a focus for all microbiology related interdisciplinary research in Colleges of Life Sciences, Science and Engineering, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and the Respiratory and infectious Diseases clinical departments in NHS UHL Trust.

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