Interactions Among Nasopharyngeal Bacteria (IANB)

The nasopharynx is the primary reservoir of respiratory pathogens that can cause respiratory and middle ear infections. It is increasingly recognised that co-residing nasopharyngeal commensal bacteria can modify the behaviour of pathogenic species. Such observations are driving study of probiotic strategies for preventing and disrupting nasopharyngeal colonisation by pathogens. Understanding interactions between commensal and pathogenic species that co-reside in the nasopharynx is critical to the design of such novel therapies.

Microbiome studies have revealed the presence of a range of previously unrecognised commensals in the nasopharynx. One example is Candidatus Ornithobacterium hominis (OH), a new bacterium first isolated by the Menzies’ laboratory team, which was later cultured. The role of OH in disease processes is currently unknown; however, its nearest relative is an avian respiratory pathogen. Preliminary work has identified a second bacteria that co-resides and interacts with OH.  The aims of this project are to identify and characterise this second bacterium, and to determine whether it can affect respiratory pathogen growth either directly or in combination with OH.

This study will use isolates available from our existing biobank of respiratory specimens provided with consent for additional research purposes. While there is no direct benefit to the participants included in the parent studies, it is hoped that the work will, in the longer term, contribute to improved understanding of disease processes involved in the development of chronic airway infections. Use of biobanked specimens reduces the research burden on remote communities.

Sustainability and transferability
This work will contribute new knowledge about nasopharyngeal bacteria with a focus on understanding whether the targeted commensal species affect growth of bacteria known to be important in respiratory disease. It is expected that the study results will be disseminated through a publication, as well as presentation at a relevant conference.

Building capability
The laboratory team is committed to growing capability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health science researchers through a Pathways program that commences with Certificate III in Laboratory Skills training offered to high school graduates with progression to undergraduate cadetships, with support for progression to post-graduate studies. Towards this end, our group currently includes two undergraduate cadets who are working on a range of microbiological projects.

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