We study the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, designated by the World Health Organization as a critical priority for the development of new therapies due to its high levels of antibiotic resistance. It uses long thin retractile fibres called type IV pili (T4P) to attach to and crawl along surfaces during formation of drug tolerant biofilms.
We study how T4P are made, how they work, how they are used by bacteriophages to infect P. aeruginosa and how the bacterium defends itself against phage. Pilus-specific phages may be useful as alternatives to, or adjuvants for, current antibiotics.
We are also interested in the mechanisms by which sub-inhibitory concentrations of antibiotics stimulate biofilm formation, and how we can exploit that phenotype to identify sub-inhibitory antibiotic activity in molecule libraries or complex mixtures of natural products. .