Strain Wars and the Evolution of Opportunistic Pathogens

4:00pm - 5:00pm / Tuesday 17th March 2020 / Venue: LT1 Life Sciences Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: BEEM Seminar
  • Suitable for: Free
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Speaker: Samuel Sheppard (University of Bath)

Some of the most common infectious diseases are caused by bacteria that naturally colonise humans asymptomatically. Combating these opportunistic pathogens requires an understanding of the traits that differentiate infecting strains from harmless relatives. Staphylococcus epidermidis is carried asymptomatically on the skin and mucous membranes of virtually all humans but is a major cause of nosocomial infection associated with invasive procedures. Using data from recent studies Sam will consider the underlying evolutionary mechanisms of opportunistic pathogenicity by combining pangenome-wide association studies and laboratory microbiology to compare S. epidermidis from bloodstream and wound infections and asymptomatic carriage. Sam will then challenge the prevailing view, that infection is an accident of surgery (or other perturbations). In fact, the assumption that all strains in one niche (here the skin) are equally able to colonize a second niche (the blood), contradicts accepted evolutionary theories of niche transition and adaptation.