The Science of Antibiotics
A Talk by Sandra Breum Andersen, Ph.D.
Antibiotics vs Bacteria!!
The development of antibiotics has revolutionised our society – we’re now much less likely to die from infections following a small cut in the hand or even open heart surgery. There are, however, serious consequences of our the extensive use of antibiotics. I will talk about how microorganisms produce antibiotics to compete with each other, and how we have exploited this natural arsenal of weapons to our benefit and detriment. While the advantages are obvious in the clinic, antibiotics are used also in cases where they are not needed, and as growth enhancers in life stock. The two main problems we are now facing are antibiotic resistance and disturbance of our beneficial microbes. I will explain how resistance arise and spread, and how the loss of “friendly” bacteria from our gut may lead to problems with obesity, diabetes and asthma.
Sandra is a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. Martin Blaser at the Langone Medical Center at NYU, funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, where she works with the intricate social lives of Helicobacter pylori stomach bacteria. Prior to arriving in NY in 2016, Sandra acquired a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology in her native Denmark, working with behavior-manipulating fungi that turn ants into zombies. Reluctantly leaving behind fieldwork in tropical forests, Sandra turned to the social lives of bacteria causing lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. This research was done at the University of Oxford and the Technical University of Denmark and revealed how bacteria can cooperate and cheat in our bodies.