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Alex Wilcox

“Phagocins” - a new antimicrobial concept

Antimicrobial resistance arising in bacterial pathogens is one of the most challenging health-related issues currently facing society today. Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically target bacteria and have been identified as an alternative to traditional antibiotics⁠. However, resistance to bacteriophage can also naturally occur within populations and presents a potential hurdle to development of phage therapy⁠. In addition to the potential for bacteriophage resistance occurring, the other drawback of phage therapy is that the phage can be highly specific. For instance, a cocktail of phages may be needed to target all E. coli within a sample.

Other alternatives to traditional antibiotics are bacteriocins, a group of antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria to kill other bacteria. Bacteriocins have a number of potential benefits including potency, low toxicity, and both narrow and broad spectrums of targets. Bacteriocins have the potential to be used as antibiotics, but their production can be problematic as their synthesis kills the very host that is producing them. Combining them with a phage delivery system would bring the advantage of producing them in vivo.

My research aims to use bacteriophage as a delivery system for bacterocins. With two unique mechanisms for killing bacteria in a single phage, I am investigating the potential of this system for both killing normal bacteria and dealing with any phage-resistant cells.

Alex

I received my BSc (hons) in Biomedical Sciences from Northumbria University in 2011.

I then moved to the University of Aberdeen, where I worked in the laboratory of Daniel MacQueen as a research assistant looking at vertebrate phylogenetics.

In 2013 I joined the lab of Ben Dickins at Nottingham Trent University, where I did my PhD. I investigated the consequences of evolution at a high mutation rate, using an experimental evolution system with bacteriophage ΦX174.