Natural Product Research: Dr Katie Laird's natural product research encompasses a number of academic and industry projects, she has developed a patented antimicrobial vapour based on essential oils that decontaminates both the air and surfaces. In addition in collaboration with industry she has developed a completely natural antimicrobial facial toner for acne, which is as effective as prescription therapies in vitro. Current research includes the use of natural products and their components as adjuvants to antibiotics in order to exert a synchronised mechanism of action against antibiotic resistant strains.
Novel Biocide Research: Dr Walsh's research focuses on assessment of the activity and mode of action of a new and existing disinfectants. One aspect of this research has been the development De Montfort University's novel antimicrobial catalyst technology which has been patented and is currently licenced in one field of use. Significant improvements in the activity of hydrogen peroxide can be achieved in the presence of the catalyst which offers a potential advantage over current commercial disinfection systems. Further collaborations in this or related areas are welcome. Dr Walsh also has an interest in the possible link between biocide use and antibiotic resistance. She has published in this area and collaborates with Dr Smith and Dr Samarsinghe to investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in biocide tolerance.
Nano - Metal Research: The use of a range of metals is being explored as antimicrobials against the microorganisms that cause Hospital Acquired Infections. Dr Katie Laird has assessed the use of metals in a range of different shape formats in order to eradicate biofilms of clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa , the mechanisms of action of nano-metals is also being explored.
Diagnostic Research: In collaboration with the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Dr Shivanthi Samarasinghe's work involves the use of rapid technologies to detect highly antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli in urinary tract infections. A prevalence study was conducted to investigate the prevalence of antibiotic resistant urinary tract infections in the Leicestershire area. Current research includes the effect of garlic extract on the expression of genes in the biofilm; and the effect of cranberry extract on the genes that cause Escherichia coli to adhere to the urinary tract wall.
Microbial Immune Evasion Research: Dr Umakhanth V Girija's research is primarily focussed on molecular strategies adopted by microbial pathogens to evade the human immune system, particularly complement attack. Immune evasion by pathogens is a great challenge in treating many microbial infections. Dr Girija's lab investigates and characterizes several putative immune evasion and molecular mimicry candidates so as to provide novel insights into designing therapeutics. With collaborations at UK and international level, a range of pathogens including bacteria (Serratia), yeast (Candida) and parasites (Schistosoma, Leishmania) are investigated. Advanced techniques such as recombinant protein production, purification, protein-protein interactions, microbial gene knock-outs, biochemical, immunological assays and natural products screening are employed to explore the challenges posed by pathogens and find novel solutions.
Transcriptional Regulation in Bacteria: Dr Laura Smith's research focuses on understanding how bacteria sense the various signals associated with infection (for example oxidative stress and nitric oxide) via transcription factors and alter their gene expression accordingly, with a particular focus on those involved in the dormancy switch in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Healthcare Laundry: The role of textiles as a possible transmission route for Hospital Acquired Infections has been evaluated by Dr Katie Laird, she has looked a range of issues including assessing how NHS nurses adhere to the NHS domestic laundering policy, the survival of C. difficile from hospital bedsheets through industrial laundering and the ability for bacteria to withstand low temperature domestic laundering. In addition she works on antimicrobial laundering detergents and “Green” antimicrobial textile coatings using natural products. This work is in collaboration with the NHS, national laundries and industry.
Efficacy of Infection Control Products: Dr Walsh and Prof L Goodyer have investigated the activity of commercially available travel hand rubs with the aim of developing more effective formulations. Another study is currently focusing on the efficacy of disinfection travel products for potable water. Dr Walsh has also led the microbiology aspects of randomised controlled trials investigating: the efficacy of using brushes and picks in surgical scrubbing; and the efficacy of body washing.
Emerging Parasites: Dr Peña-Fernández, in collaboration with the Parasitology and Immunology Section at the Universidad San Pablo CEU (Spain), is performing different projects to determine the presence and distribution of emerging human parasites in the urban environment of major cities in the East Midlands such as Leicester. The emerging parasites that are being studied are protozoa parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora. The parasitology group that has been created will explore the possible zoonotic role of these parasites and their possible role in the contamination of the urban environment. This data will be used to identify possible human health risks and develop applicable intervention measures to protect the public.
Education and Widening Participation
A Germ's Journey: Is an interactive book and website (www.agermsjourney.com) developed by Dr Katie Laird and Dr Sarah Younie (educationalist), the book is aimed at preschool children. Through interactive action and consequence learning, children should come to understand about the invisible germ, germs hiding and health & disease. The Society for Applied Microbiology has supported this study and 1000 books will be used for widening participation both in the UK, India and Africa. Research is being conducted on the effectiveness of a Germ’s Journey as an educational intervention tool and a MESH guide has been written to complement the work.
Parasitology On-line Resource: An innovative teaching group form by biomedical scientists, parasitologists, IT developers and academics from different EU Universities (Universidad San Pablo CEU, Universidad de Alcalá and Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche; Spain) and the UK, led by Dr Peña-Fernández (DMU), is designing, creating and developing a complete on-line package in Parasitology for undergraduate and postgraduate students that study health sciences. The “e-Parasitology” package will be accessible through the DMU website soon in 2017 and will be focused on infection, prevention and treatment of major and emerging parasitic diseases. The e-Parasitology package will be an important teaching and learning resource for students and academics.