Focusing on the diversity, ecology and evolution of plasmids that transfer to a broad range of bacteria.
Our research is focused on the ecology and evolution of multi-drug resistance (MDR) plasmids in bacteria, in particular, those with a broad host range. Since the spread of MDR to human pathogens threatens the treatment of infectious diseases, we need novel therapies that slow down this spread. However, the factors that determine successful transfer and persistence of MDR plasmids are still poorly understood.
Our main research question is focused on the mechanisms and dynamics of plasmid-bacteria co-evolution, and how this leads to increased persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in pathogens and ultimate expansion of their drug resistance arsenal. We also look at the effect of biofilm growth on these evolutionary processes.
Our interest in the natural diversity and evolutionary history of MDR plasmids has led us to comparative plasmid genomics and more recently the chromosome deconvolution method Hi-C to identify the reservoirs of MDR plasmids and antibiotic resistance genes in the environment. We will also use this method to track the spread of an introduced MDR plasmid to the indigenous bacteria of various habitats like soil and rhizosphere. This work will help us shed light on the trajectories of resistance genes from environment to clinic.