Led by Dr Karolin Hijazi, Microbial Diseases research at the Institute of Dentistry aims to advance mechanistic knowledge that will inform the development of new strategies to control infectious diseases as well as immune disease driven by microbes. Strands of work broadly include the study of: i) imbalances of the oral mucosal microbiota and their relationship with events driving mucosal inflammation locally and at systemic level; ii) virulence and antimicrobial resistance mechanisms underpinning bacterial 'opportunistic' infections in the immunocompromised patient; iii) modulation of host-pathogen interactions and distribution of antimicrobial agents to inhibit infections at mucosal sites (particularly in the context of HIV).

 

  • Antimicrobial resistance

Our research brings together clinicians and scientists to inform the design of measures to control antimicrobial resistance of bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections on the high and critical WHO priority pathogen list. We study the selection pressures for antimicrobial resistance related to antimicrobial use with the view improving infection control practices while minimising emergence and spread of resistance.  We also study the evolution (phylogenetics) of resistance and the dynamics of transmission of antimicrobial resistance at the genetic level in keeping with the One Health perspective of understanding the sources of infection and of resistance generation.

 

  • HIV-1

This area is focussed on i) discovery and testing of new inhibitors with increased potency and barriers to viral resistance, ii) optimisation of formulations of anti-retroviral drug-based microbicides. Microbicides are inhibitors of viral attachment, fusion or replication that can be applied directly to mucosal tissues to prevent transmission of HIV.

 

  • Oral opportunistic pathogens

We are investigating mechanisms of modulation of pathogenicity of oral bacteria which determine their transition from harmless commensals to virulent pathogen. The work is expected to drive a novel approach to targeting oral opportunistic pathogens as an alternative to current antimicrobial therapy associated with antimicrobial resistance. A further strand of this theme aims to establish clonal diversity of Candida strains across different intraoral sites and establish a correlation between clonal diversity and the progression of oral candidosis over time using multi-locus sequence typing and next-generation sequencing

 

  • Oral Mucosal Inflammatory Disease

We are investigating the role of the microbiota and its interactions with the innate and adaptive immune response in pathogenesis of oral mucosal inflammatory diseases. This includes the study of recurrent aphthous stomatitis and oral lichen planus, the most common diseases affecting the soft tissues of the oral cavity.