The project secured €3.4 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation MSCA programme.

A team from NUI Galway are leading an international research project to develop next generation antimicrobials to prevent bacterial infections.

The group have undertaken a new European project called PATHSENSE Training Network, which aims to identify vulnerabilities in bacteria that can cause infection which can be targeted with next generation antimicrobial treatments to hinder the growth of bacteria. 
 
The project secured €3.4 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation MSCA programme to investigate the mechanisms that bacterial pathogens use to sense their environment, focus on understanding a highly sophisticated but poorly understood sensory organelle in bacteria called the ‘stressosome’, which in some respects is like a miniature brain for processing sensory inputs. 
 
The team conducting the research will collaborate with eight universities and four companies, located in seven different countries across Europe including multinational giant Nestle, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and universities such as University of Cambridge, University of Regensburg and University of Greifswald in Germany.
 
Project coordinator and Lecturer in Microbiology at NUI Galway, Dr Conor O’Byrne, explained that, “Rapid and sensitive systems to sense and respond to environmental changes are a cornerstone of a bacterium’s survival apparatus, and if we understood how these systems worked then we could design drugs to block them and this should help to kill the bacteria. 
 
“Imagine if you deprived someone of their sense of hearing, smell and vision and then placed them into a crowded city, they would find it pretty difficult to survive. This is what we aim to do with these bacterial pathogens, with the goal of reducing their chance of survival and ultimately preventing infections in humans.”
 
A major long-term objective of this Network will be to develop new antimicrobial treatments that target the sensory apparatus of bacteria, preventing them from protecting themselves and thereby reducing their survival. These antimicrobials will have applications in the food and public health sectors.