Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterial pathogen that causes gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea, a common sexually transmitted infection, is increasingly becoming resistant to existing drug treatments. 'Super-gonorrhoea', has been in the news recently after outbreaks across England. Dr Lori Snyder, based in the School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy, and Chemistry, is working to find new treatments for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium responsible for the infection.
Understanding the genomes of bacteria can lead to a better understanding of the organisms and can help answer questions about their evolution, which may lead to a better understanding of how organisms become resistant to antibiotics.
Snyder's research has focussed on next generation sequencing of strains of Neisseria, Helicobacter, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Streptococcus, and particularly on mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and genomic evolution of bacteria.
Dr Lori Snyder with Torren genome sequencer
Using the Kingston University Ion Torrent genome sequencer, combined with laboratory experiments on live bacteria, Snyder and her team have been able to answer further research questions about these bacteria and the genes that enable them to cause disease. They have further investigated the public health implications of antibiotic resistance and methods to address them.
The team have identified novel genome features, changes, and mutations that give insight into the ability of the bacteria to cause disease, the expression of antibiotic resistance, and the transmission of bacteria between patients.
Through this better understanding of how infection spreads and responds to treatment, Snyder's team have been able to discover new ways of treating infection as well as novel testing mechanisms to reduce the spread of the disease.
Gonorrhea can be easily spread. An infected person may have no symptoms, but still transmit the infection without knowing. If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause further complications such as infertility and a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. Gonorrhoea has longer term health implications, as it can leave sufferers more susceptible to other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It can even be passed on to children at birth, causing the baby to develop severe eye infections that can lead to blindness.
Microbiology Anywhere, a team formed by Dr. Snyder, has been developing a self-testing diagnostic kit for gonorrhoea. This will enable testing to be done in private at home, via a smartphone app, and will deliver a more accurate diagnosis in developing world countries where laboratories and testing skills are not readily available. Once a correct diagnosis has been made, appropriate antibiotics recommended by the test can be prescribed which will successfully treat the infection and reduce the spread of gonorrhoea.
The gonorrhoea infection can be passed from mother to baby at birth, causing severe eye infection that, without treatment, can lead to permanent blindness. Funded by Sparks, the children's medical Research charity, Snyder's group has developed a novel non-antibiotic based treatment to address infection in the eyes of infants born to mothers infected with gonorrhoea. This successfully kills the gonorrhoea bacteria rapidly, without causing irritation to the eye. This helps prevent blindness and other complications of gonorrhoea, and has the potential to save the sight of babies around the world.