Microbiology

Understanding the role of microorganisms is fundamental to nutrition.


An appreciation of the role of microorganisms is fundamental to our understanding of nutrition and human health. The human gut microbiome is now regarded as a separate organ and the resident microorganisms play pivotal roles in the health of the host. This recent knowledge has built upon our long-standing appreciation of microorganisms as agents of disease as well as their central role in food production, food spoilage and foodborne illness.

The microbiology group are actively involved in researching these topics via cross-cutting research themes with other NICHE groups, other schools within Ulster University as well collaborations with external organisations both nationally and internationally.

In particular we have extensive experience of the recovery of bacteria from different types of environments and of handling difficult to cultivate microorganisms in the laboratory. We have published extensively on a variety of human pathogens whose laboratory cultivation is particularly challenging; obligate anaerobic bacteria (Clostridium botulinum and C. difficle); microaerophilic bacteria (Campylobacter and Helicobacter) as well as organisms that still cannot be cultivated in the laboratory (the protist Cryptosporidium). We employ current molecular biology approaches such as genomics, proteomics, qPCR and RNAseq in combination with more traditional light and electron microscopy techniques

Our current research activities are based around a number of themes;

  1. developing cost effective systems to treat and monitor drinking water in resource poor communities,
  2. understanding how environmental influences modulate antibiotic resistance transfer among foodborne pathogens,
  3. evaluating the effect of ageing on the human microbiome
  4. elucidating how bacteria associated with gastrointestinal colonisation construct and maintain biofilm-communities, and
  5. investigating novel control methods that could be employed to reduce biofilm in chronic wounds. We have actively engaged with industrial partners in both short and long-term projects supported via schemes such as the Innovation Vouchers, CAST awards, KTP projects etc. as well as direct consultancy contracts

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