Nural is a postdoctoral researcher at the ithree institute, specialising in the field of microbiology. Nural’s research interest is in understanding how bacteria cause infections and disease and finding new approaches to slow down the rise of antimicrobial resistance. Her expertise is in the medicinal properties of honey – a potent killer of bacteria – and its potential as a novel, cheap and accessible solution for the treatment of infections.
Nural’s research focuses on two main areas concerning the use of honey: 1) as a topical treatment for chronic wounds and skin infections; and 2) as a prebiotic food to remediate the gut microbiome to help combat the onset and progression of gut-related diseases.
Nural is equally passionate about doing research that has direct positive impacts for society, as she is about communicating her research to as broad an audience as possible.
- PhD (2015), Microbiology, University of New South Wales, Australia.
- BSc Hons I (2008), Majors: Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology, University of Sydney, Australia.
Grants and awards
- Principal Investigator, Increasing the value of Australian honey as a health food, AgriFutures Australia (2018 - 2021)
- Co-investigator, Cross-species gene regulation: missing link in the wound healing properties of manuka honey, Faculty of Engineering Blue Sky Research Scheme (2018 - 2019).
- UTS Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award Winner in the Early Career Researcher category (2018)
- FameLab Winner and Audience Choice Award for Best Young Science Communicator in Australia; and International Runner-Up Award (Cheltenham Science Festival, UK) (2017). FameLab is the largest science communication competition in the world.
- Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) Postdoctoral Award Winner of the NSW-ACT branch award (2017).
- Best Oral Presentation Award at FOSTER UTS conference (2017).
- TEDxSydney Named one of the top five young change-makers for her research (by Junkee) (2017).
- UTS Early Career Researcher Showcase Award Winner of the best research presentation award (2016).
- Australian Postgraduate Award (2011 - 2015).
Member of the Australian Society for Microbiology.
Can supervise: YES
Lehmann, DM, Krishnakumar, K, Batres, MA, Hakola-Parry, A, Cokcetin, N, Harry, E & Carter, DA 2019, 'A cost-effective colourimetric assay for quantifying hydrogen peroxide in honey', Access Microbiology, vol. 1, no. 10.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Honey is a natural product with many beneficial properties including antimicrobial action. Production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in diluted honey is central to this action. Here, we describe an optimized method for measuring levels of H2O2 in honey. This method is based on established methods, with the level of dilution, the time between dilution and reading the assay, and aeration of the samples during the assay identified as critical points for ensuring reliability and reproducibility. The method is cost-effective and easy to perform using common laboratory equipment. Using this method, we quantified the hydrogen peroxide content of five different, unprocessed polyfloral honeys collected in NC, USA. Our results show that H2O2 production by these honeys varies greatly, with some samples producing negligible levels of H2O2. We assessed the effect of colour on the assay by measuring the recovery of spiked H2O2 from light and dark honey and from serially diluted dark corn syrup, and found the amount of H2O2 that could be detected was lower in dark corn syrup and darker honey samples.
Lu, J, Cokcetin, NN, Burke, CM, Turnbull, L, Liu, M, Carter, DA, Whitchurch, CB & Harry, EJ 2019, 'Honey can inhibit and eliminate biofilms produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.', Scientific reports, vol. 9, no. 1.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Chronic wound treatment is becoming increasingly difficult and costly, further exacerbated when wounds become infected. Bacterial biofilms cause most chronic wound infections and are notoriously resistant to antibiotic treatments. The need for new approaches to combat polymicrobial biofilms in chronic wounds combined with the growing antimicrobial resistance crisis means that honey is being revisited as a treatment option due to its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity and low propensity for bacterial resistance. We assessed four well-characterised New Zealand honeys, quantified for their key antibacterial components, methylglyoxal, hydrogen peroxide and sugar, for their capacity to prevent and eradicate biofilms produced by the common wound pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We demonstrate that: (1) honey used at substantially lower concentrations compared to those found in honey-based wound dressings inhibited P. aeruginosa biofilm formation and significantly reduced established biofilms; (2) the anti-biofilm effect of honey was largely driven by its sugar component; (3) cells recovered from biofilms treated with sub-inhibitory honey concentrations had slightly increased tolerance to honey; and (4) honey used at clinically obtainable concentrations completely eradicated established P. aeruginosa biofilms. These results, together with their broad antimicrobial spectrum, demonstrate that manuka honey-based wound dressings are a promising treatment for infected chronic wounds, including those with P. aeruginosa biofilms.
Liu, MY, Cokcetin, NN, Lu, J, Turnbull, L, Carter, DA, Whitchurch, CB & Harry, EJ 2018, 'Rifampicin-Manuka Honey Combinations Are Superior to Other Antibiotic-Manuka Honey Combinations in Eradicating Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms.', Frontiers in Microbiology, vol. 8, pp. 1-12.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Chronic wound infections are a major burden to both society and the health care industry. Bacterial biofilms are the major cause of chronic wound infections and are notoriously recalcitrant to treatments with antibiotics, making them difficult to eradicate. Thus, new approaches are required to combat biofilms in chronic wounds. One possible approach is to use drug combination therapies. Manuka honey has potent broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and has previously shown synergistic activity in combination with antibiotics against common wound pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus. In addition, manuka honey exhibits anti-biofilm activity, thereby warranting the investigation of its potential as a combination therapy with antibiotics for the topical treatment of biofilm-related infections. Here we report the first use of MacSynergy II to investigate the response of established S. aureus (strain NCTC 8325) biofilms to treatment by combinations of Medihoney (medical grade manuka honey) and conventional antibiotics that are used for preventing or treating infections: rifampicin, oxacillin, fusidic acid, clindamycin, and gentamicin. Using checkerboard microdilution assays, viability assays and MacSynergy II analysis we show that the Medihoney-rifampicin combination was more effective than combinations using the other antibiotics against established staphylococcal biofilms. Medihoney and rifampicin were strongly synergistic in their ability to reduce both biofilm biomass and the viability of embedded S. aureus cells at a level that is likely to be significant in vivo. Other combinations of Medihoney and antibiotic produced an interesting array of effects: Medihoney-fusidic acid treatment showed minor synergistic activity, and Medihoney-clindamycin, -gentamicin, and -oxacillin combinations showed overall antagonistic effects when the honey was used at sub-inhibitory concentration, due to enhanced biofilm formation at these concentrations which could not be counter...
Carter, DA, Blair, SE, Cokcetin, NN, Bouzo, D, Brooks, P, Schothauer, R & Harry, EJ 2016, 'Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative', FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, vol. 7.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Cokcetin, NN, Pappalardo, M, Campbell, LT, Brooks, P, Carter, DA, Blair, SE & Harry, EJ 2016, 'The Antibacterial Activity of Australian Leptospermum Honey Correlates with Methylglyoxal Levels', PLOS ONE, vol. 11, no. 12.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Blair, S, Cokcetin, N, Harry, L & Carter, D 2009, 'The unusual antibacterial activity of medical-grade Leptospermum honey: antibacterial spectrum, resistance and transcriptome analysis', European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infecti..., vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 1199-1208.View/Download from: Publisher's site
There is an urgent need for new, effective agents in topical wound care, and selected honeys show potential in this regard. Using a medical-grade honey, eight species of problematic wound pathogens, including those with high levels of innate or acquired antibiotic resistance, were killed by 4.0-14.8% honey, which is a concentration that can be maintained in the wound environment. Resistance to honey could not be induced under conditions that rapidly induced resistance to antibiotics. Escherichia coli macroarrays were used to determine the response of bacterial cells to a sub-lethal dose of honey. The pattern of gene expression differed to that reported for other antimicrobial agents, indicating that honey acts in a unique and multifactorial way; 78 (2%) genes were upregulated and 46 (1%) genes were downregulated more than two-fold upon exposure to the medical-grade honey. Most of the upregulated genes clustered into distinct functional regulatory groups, with many involved in stress responses, and the majority of downregulated genes encoded for products involved in protein synthesis. Taken together, these data indicate that honey is an effective topical antimicrobial agent that could help reduce some of the current pressures that are promoting antibiotic resistance.
Bouzo, D, Cokcetin, NN, Li, L, Ballerin, G, Bottomley, AL, Lazenby, J, Whitchurch, CB, Paulsen, IT, Hassan, KA & Harry, EJ, 'Characterising the mechanism of action of an ancient antimicrobial, honey, using modern transcriptomics'.View/Download from: Publisher's site
AbstractManuka honey has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity and unlike traditional antibiotics, resistance to its killing effects has not been reported. However, its mechanism of action remains unclear. Here we investigated the mechanism of action of manuka honey and its key antibacterial components using a transcriptomic approach in a model organism, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We show that no single component of honey can account for its total antimicrobial action, and that honey affects the expression of genes in the SOS response, oxidative damage and quorum sensing. Manuka honey uniquely affects genes involved in the explosive cell lysis process and in maintaining the electron transport chain, causing protons to leak across membranes and collapsing the proton motive force; and induces membrane depolarisation and permeabilisation in P. aeruginosa. These data indicate that the activity of manuka honey comes from multiple mechanisms of action that do not engender bacterial resistance.ImportanceThe threat of antimicrobial resistance to human health has prompted interest in complex, natural products with antimicrobial activity. Honey has been an effective topical wound treatment throughout history, predominantly due to its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Unlike traditional antibiotics, honey-resistant bacteria have not been reported, however, honey remains underutilised in the clinic in part due to a lack of understanding of its mechanism of action. Here we demonstrate that honey affects multiple processes in bacteria, and this is not explained by its major antibacterial components. Honey also uniquely affects bacterial membranes and this can be exploited for combination therapy with antibiotics that are otherwise ineffective on their own. We argue that honey should be included as part of the current array of wound treatm...