Bacteriophages: micromanipulators of the bacterial world and a treasure trove of novel antibacterials

Posted by er134 at Dec 01, 2016 11:40 AM |
Microbiologist to give free public lecture at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 6 December

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 1 December 2016

You can watch, download and embed a video of Professor Martha Clokie discussing bacteriophages at:

Image of Professor Clokie available to download at:

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses an increasingly serious threat to global public health by threatening the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.  Of particular concern are bacteria which due to our misuse of antibiotics are becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

Bacteriophages or phages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria.  They are much more specific than antibiotics and are used outside of the West to treat a whole range of bacterial infections, many of which do not respond to conventional antibiotics. They are typically harmless not only to the host organism, but also to other beneficial bacteria, such as the gut flora which they leave intact.  This reduces the chances of opportunistic infections and other complications caused by antibiotics.

Professor Martha Clokie in the University of Leicester’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation will give her inaugural lecture, ‘Bacteriophages: micromanipulators of the bacterial world and a treasure trove of novel antibacterials’ on Tuesday 6 December at 5.30pm at the University of Leicester’s Centre for Medicine.

The lecture will highlight Professor Clokie’s early work on environmental bacteria and show how it informed subsequent work on the selection and development of phages to treat human diseases.

Professor Clokie said: “Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that infect bacteria.  They are the most abundant and diverse biological entities on earth, and all bacteria have specific viruses that target and infect them, either causing death, or profound changes in their biology.”

Since establishing her research group at Leicester, Professor Clokie has spent the last decade applying an environmental and ecological framework attempting to understand the ecological roles or viruses in many bacteria that cause human disease.

Professor Clokie added: “This is particularly pertinent in the era of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and phages have the potential to be developed to treat a range of human diseases.”

For the gut pathogen Clostridium difficile, her work has developed from the idea that phages may be useful, to identifying and characterising sets of viruses and establishing promising data on their efficacy at treating infection in a range of complex models.

‘Bacteriophages: micromanipulators of the bacterial world and a treasure trove of novel antibacterials’ will be held in Lecture Theatre 1 in the University of Leicester’s Centre for Medicine, Lancaster Road at 5.30pm. A drinks reception will follow in the foyer after the lecture.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Please confirm your attendance to Dr Danielle Benyon-Payne at:


Notes to editors:

For more information about the event contact Dr Danielle Benyon-Payne at:

For more information about Professor Clokie’s research contact:


Professor Clokie obtained a BSc in Biology from Dundee University in 1996 an MSc in Biodiversity from Edinburgh University in 1997, and a PhD from Leicester in Molecular Ecology in 2001. She then did 6 years of Post-Doctoral research at the University of Warwick and in Scripps, La Jolla, San Diego.  In 2007 Professor Clokie was appointed as a lecturer at Leicester, in 2011 a Reader and in 2015 she was promoted to Professor in Microbiology. Her research focuses on phages that infect bacteria of medical and ecological relevance and she has published 45 papers in this area.  She is interested in the ecology and evolution of viruses, and how and where they evolve, and in determining the mechanistic basis for the way in which they impact bacterial hosts.  So to do this the work transcends from genome sequencing, through transcriptomics and proteomics.  Professor Clokie has also developed relevant model systems in which to study host-phage interactions.  She is particularly interested in phage therapy and how a knowledge of phage behaviour in the environment and in model systems can inform phage therapy development.  Her major focus has been on Clostridium difficile where she has isolated a large phage collection.  In vitro and in vivo data has shown that the viruses have therapeutic potential.  Professor Clokie has filed a patent on these phages and is working with AmpliPhi to develop a product.  She is also working on other bacteriophages that infect a range of other serious, pathogens many of which have received little study from a phage perspective including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella, LeigonellaBorrelia, , Burkholderia pseudomallei, Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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