In 2018, the Foundation to prevent antibiotic resistance awarded a total of four million SEK in research support to four researchers.
Sanna Koskiniemi, Uppsala University, is one of the researchers who received grants. Her project is aiming, with help from super probiotics, to improve the ability of the normal flora to protect against infections and colonization by multidrug resistant bacteria.
Sanna Koskiniemi, PhD, Associate senior lecturer, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Microbiology,
Can you briefly describe your research project?
Our body consists of many more bacterial cells than human cells. These bacteria, also known as the normal flora protect against incoming disease causing bacteria. But sometimes this protection does not work well enough and we get an infection. In addition, individuals can become carriers of multidrug resistant bacteria when travelling to regions where antibiotic resitance is common.
These drugresistant bacteria can become a problem in that individual during infections, but also contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance. In this project we are arming probiotic bacteria with bacteria-specific weapons to improve the ability of the normal flora to protect against infections and colonization by multidrug resistant bacteria.
Our hope is that these super probiotics can be used to prevent bacterial diarrhea, which is still a large problem in some parts of the world resulting in unnessecary antibiotic use. We also think that the super probiotics could be used to protect against and cure from carriage of multidrug resistant bacteria, which could allow us to keep the prevalence of drugresistant isolates at bay for years to come.
How will the funds from the Foundation contribute to your work?
First of all we are very grateful to the Foundation for funding our project which could not be done otherwise. The funds from the Foundation are used to fund part of a PhD students salary and are essential for the project.
In what way will your work help to decrease the development of antibiotic resistance?
We think that our probiotics will help reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics, but also that it could be used to limit the spread of drugresistant isolates in the population. If successful, the ability to eradicate multidrug resistant normal flora could be used to keep the prevalence of resistant isolates at manageable levels in the population. Thus, allowing us to continue to use old, well functioning antibiotics for years to come.
How is it that you ended up in the field of antibiotic resistance?
I became interested in antibiotic resistance early on when my older sister who was studying molecular biology at the university came home and talked about it. This made me so fascinated that I wrote my project work at the Swedish high school about antibiotic resistance, which in turn inspired me to pursue a carreer in science.
When can you hopefully see any results from your project?
It will probably take a while before we have a final product. At the moment we are testing which weapons are the best to use and how to make the probiotic as efficient as possible.
How does your research contribute to the public?
I think it is important to bring the normal flora to the discussion of how and why the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria keep increasing in the world. Today, we do not screen for carriage of drug-resistant bacteria in the normal flora because we have no way of removing these. Therefore we don’t know how much they contribute to the increased prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. If we did have an efficient way of removing drugresistant isolates, we could cure and protect people from colonization by such bacteria.