Pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli) causing diarrhoea kills over half a million children under five in low and middle-income countries each year. E. coli is also a leading cause of community- and hospital-acquired bloodstream infections and a major problem in the animal industry. Adhesins play a key role in bacterial pathogenesis, enabling the bacteria to colonise and cause an infection, but are also involved in survival in secondary environments, like water. Furthermore, adhesin’s ability to adhere to cells determine tissue and host specificity. A deep understanding of the pathogen’s transmission dynamics, how they evolve, how they interact with hosts as well as the distribution and diversity of the virulome (set of genes that contribute to the virulence of a bacterium) is of great significance for vaccine development.
In the light of these realities, the goal of the research in the von Mentzer Lab is to unravel the transmission dynamics of isolates between different hosts and the transmission of genetic elements that drive virulence and resistance in bacteria. To do this, we use data-driven genomics for high-throughput and large-scale analysis and where needed, followed by experimental corroboration. The previous research by Astrid von Mentzer centred around the major diarrhoea-causing enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) bacteria provides the cornerstones from which I will focus on the evolution and emergence of pathogenic bacteria with a link to how vaccines can confer broad protection against different bacterial variants and identify the drivers behind their emergence in humans and animals.
Funded by the Research Council and Sahlgrenska Academy, our research group combines computational and experimental approaches to understand the evolution of E. coli pathotypes and hybrid pathotypes, as well as investigating the evolution and diversity of antibiotic resistance and virulence genes and their species dynamics. Our main focus areas are:
- Applying large-scale genomics methodologies to investigate the evolution pf pathogenic E. coli
- Using a ‘One Health’ approach to study the transmission of enterotoxigenic E. coli across ecological niches
- Combining genomic predictions with experimental methodologies to validate findings