Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis Research

Flavia Huygens is a molecular microbiologist examining how bacteria causes disease

The Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis Group (MMPG) is led by Professor Flavia Huygens. The group is focused on four key research areas:

  1. Develop rapid diagnostic tools for early diagnosis of infections
  2. Understand how microbes cause infection
  3. Predict when microbes will cause infection and be resistant to antibiotics
  4. Determine how the microbiome impacts wounds, vision infections, neurological conditions and reproductive health

Underpinning this research is the group’s expertise in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics.

Develop molecular tools to track and understand how bacteria cause disease

The group is developing rapid and robust molecular tools to track and ‘fingerprint’ bacteria that cause diseases such as pneumonia, sepsis, skin and soft tissue infections, gastro-intestinal infections. These tools will also identify bacteria associated with otitis media (middle ear infections), cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases such as non-tuberculous mycobateria.

These tools will detect and characterise bacteria quickly, before clinical signs of infection appear. Detecting and characterising microbes early means appropriate antibiotics can be administered, reducing the severity of infections.

Contribute to research and pharmaceutical development with advanced microbial analysis

The team is able to determine a robust picture of how and when microbes cause infection by employing advanced analysis techniques:

  1. Cellular infection models
  2. Real time PCR
  3. Mass spectrometry
  4. Next generation sequencing
  5. Transcriptomics
  6. Proteomics
  7. Bioinformatics

The Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis Group uses these techniques in collaboration with Pathology Queensland, Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services, UQCCR and Menzies Health Institute Qld.

The group also contributes to other QUT research on microbes associated with wounds, infertility, ocular disease, neurological disorders and chronic otitis media.

Improve diabetic foot ulcer healing

The Molecular Microbial Diagnostics group has demonstrated that altering the microbiome in a diabetic foot wound directly affects the wound healing. The group is currently working to define the optimal wound microbiome for healing.

It is also contributing to the early diagnosis of infections in wounds, which will lead to less amputations and improved outcomes for diabetes patients.