UTS Biological Sciences Online Seminar
Topic: The changing landscape of pathogens in the environment. Speakers are Justin Seymour and Diane McDougald
Two researchers from UTS will outline their research lines
Marine heat waves trigger outbreaks of pathogenic Vibrio species in Australian coastal waters
Speaker: Prof. Justin Seymour
Prof. Justin Seymour is an ARC Future Fellow and the leader of the Climate Change Cluster (C3) Ocean Microbes and Healthy Oceans research program at UTS.
Marine bacteria from the Vibriogenus include several species responsible for disease in a diverse range of marine animals, including habitat forming speciesand economically important aquaculture species, while some Vibriostrains are dangerous human pathogens. Many Vibriospecies have a preference for warm waters and there is emerging evidence that pathogenic Vibrio species are displaying substantial geographical range expansions as a consequence of rising seawater temperatures associated with global climate change. Our recent research has demonstrated strong links between elevated seawater temperatures and the abundance of pathogenic Vibriospecies in Australian coastal waters, but has pointed to a potentially more profound impact of marine heatwaves (MHW) on causing blooms of these pathogens. MHWs are regionally localised, sustained periods of significantly elevated seawater temperatures, which in recent years have had significant negative impacts on the Australian marine environment. In my presentation I will provide evidence that MHWs lead to blooms of the dangerous human pathogens Vibrio choleraeand V. vulnificus in Sydney coastal waters and present data confirming that MHWs result in disease in corals and oysters, caused by V. coralliilyticusand V. harveyirespectively. These observations reveal a potentially insidious microbiological implication of increasingly frequent MHW events, which will have negative implications for human health, marine ecosystem stability and the sustainability of aquaculture industries.
Warfare at small scales: Effect of predation by heterotrophic protists on evolution of pathogens
Speaker: A/Prof. Diane McDougald
A/Prof. Diane McDougald leads the Pathogen Ecology group located at the ithree Institute and is also a Visiting Senior Researcher at the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
A/Prof McDougald has made significant contributions to the fields of Vibrio biology, bacterial adaptation to stress and mechanisms of molecular control of these responses, cell-to-cell communication, biofilm formation and interactions of bacteria with higher eukaryotes. Diane McDougald has over 20 years experience investigating mechanisms of survival and persistence of pathogens in the environment. The Pathogen Ecology group’s major research interests are the mechanisms of survival and persistence of pathogens in the environment, and what impact these mechanisms have on virulence and pathogenicity in the host. The team investigates the evolutionary drivers and consequences of bacterial adaptation to stresses, including interactions with higher organisms. Broadly, the team studies the interactions of prokaryotes and eukaryotes using a number of model systems to investigate the impact of predation by protozoa on microbial communities and how evolution of grazing defences drives the evolution of pathogenicity in the environment. Predation is an important selection pressure that pathogens face in the environment, and as a result, pathogens may evolve phenotypes that not only increase their fitness in the environment, but may also increase their fitness in the human host. This research platform will allow us to test key aspects of the Coincidental Selection Hypothesis, which states that the virulence of many opportunistic human pathogens may be an accidental by-product of selection for adaptations not related to human disease.