Microbiology

Our current research examines microbiological interactions with a variety of hosts (humans, animals and plants) and microbiological interactions in the wider external environment.  Our outputs have important applications in the control of human and animal disease, food production and microbial remediation of contaminated environments.

Our work is organised into two complementary research themes; the Microbiology of Human and Animal Disease and the Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

We have modern microbiology laboratories with excellent molecular biology facilities, confocal/fluorescent microscopy equipment, flow cytometry, and a new (2016) glasshouse facility that allows us to study the behaviour of human pathogens in soil and plant systems.

We collaborate with other research groups within Edinburgh Napier University including Biomedical Sciences, Plant and Animal Biology and externally with other Universities, public organisations (e.g. NHS) and a range of industries.


The Microbiology of Human and Animal Disease

Human/bacterial pathogen interactions 

Our work mainly focuses on the mechanisms by which bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria cause disease. Further understanding of pathogenic mechanisms is being exploited as a delivery system for novel therapeutics (Dr Clare Taylor). In terms of host response to respiratory infections, the role of Cationic Host Defence Peptides in the innate response to infection of the lung is being studied with an aim of development of novel peptide based therapeutics to address antimicrobial resistance. (Dr Peter Barlow).

Human and animal fungal infections 

There is global recognition of the importance of opportunistic fungal infections of humans and animals related to decreased immune responses (linked to disease or drug use) and resistance to anti-fungal drugs. Our research currently examines the pathogenicity of opportunistic environmental fungal pathogens using invertebrate host models (e.g. nematodes) and potential environmental sources of aspergillosis in a captive penguin population at Edinburgh Zoo. (Dr Rosa De Llanos and Professor Ian Singleton).

Novel therapeutics and management of human infection 

Studies are beginning on the management of chronic wounds in NHS Lanarkshire using the diabetic foot model; these focus on application of novel antiseptic irrigants. Collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University will enable us to track the response of the diabetic foot microbiome over time with, and without, exposure to different therapeutic interventions (Professor Stephanie Dancer).

Bacterial infections and reproductive failure

Bacterial infections are significant causes of miscarriage in both humans and livestock worldwide. Current work at Edinburgh Napier aims to identify the contributions (and mechanisms) of prior exposure and / or active infection with bacterial pathogens (e.g. Chlamydia, Listeria) to reproductive failure (infertility and miscarriage), and to identify immune pathways contributing to disease pathogenesis (Dr Nick Wheelhouse and Dr Clare Taylor).

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

mushrooms

Microbe-soil-plant interactions 

Microbes can affect plant growth both positively and negatively and we are interested in using molecular approaches to study the complex interactions between microbes and plants both above and below ground. Current research examines use of novel methods to control microbial spoilage of fresh produce, the persistence of human pathogens (such 

as Listeria) in intensive agriculture and microbial communities in agricultural, engineered and natural ecosystems (Professor Ian Singleton, Dr Clare Taylor). 

Antimicrobial resistance in the non-clinical environment 

The ability of microbes to develop resistance to antibiotics is recognised as one of the most important threats facing mankind in the 21st century. Our work is aimed at determining the contribution of environmental "hotspots" (wastewater treatment plants and agricultural land), rivers, coastal waters and food (meat and vegetables) to the selection and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in hospital pathogens (Dr Donald Morrison, Professor Stephanie Dancer, Dr Halina Vaughan).

Transmission of pathogens in healthcare environments 

It is becoming increasingly important to understand how pathogens transmit between patients and environmental sources. We are undertaking epidemiological investigations using genomic typing of indicator pathogens to help improve prevention and control of infection (Professor Stephanie Dancer, Dr Donald Morrison). Other projects examine applications of different antimicrobial surfaces, including light activated titanium dioxide and plastic polymers to prevent hospital-acquired infection (Professor Stephanie Dancer).

Bacteriophage - applications in the environment, food production and medicine 

Bacteriophages (phages), viruses that specifically attack bacteria, have the potential to control bacterial populations in a variety of environments. Our current research includes the use of phages as therapeutic and biocontrol agents for bacterial infections in human/animal health, as well as the study of phage prevalence and their impact in sewage treatment systems (Dr Sophie Foley, Dr Samantha Campbell Casey, Dr Fiona Stainsby). We are also interested in phage ecology and starter culture selection in industrial fermentations, since phages are a natural threat to any industry based on bacterial fermentation (Dr Sophie Foley).

Bioremediation 

Microbes have many recognised roles in the treatment of contaminated wastes and environments. The focus of our work is to better understand the impact of microbial populations upon wastewater treatment processes, and we are currently examining the role of actinomycetes in activated sludge foams. (Dr Fiona Stainsby and Dr Halina Vaughan).  Our wastewater treatment investigations also encompass potential accumulation of pollutants such as nanomaterials and whole-cell biosensor assays for eco-toxicity testing (Dr Gary Hutchison and Dr Fiona Stainsby).

A second bioremediation direction is headed by Professor Emeritus Nick Christofi, whose research concentrates on biodegradation, bioremediation, toxicity testing and biosensor development using microbial systems, and recycling of waste polymeric materials.  He is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Recyclatech Group Limited (www.recyclatech.com), a start-up Company from Edinburgh Napier University that was incorporated following extensive research on the recycling of rubber from end-of-life automotive tyres (Professor Nick Christofi and Dr Dennis Govert).