Mawgan Trebell

How does S. pneumoniae acquire extracellular DNA from its natural environment to drive antibiotic resistance?

About me

I attained an MSc in Chemical Physics at the University of Bristol. While I found many topics within these areas interesting, I could never quite put my finger on one that I wanted to research further. However, upon beginning my masters project centred around the movement of swarms of bacteria, I developed a strong interest in researching biophysics more deeply. My project excites me because it is an opportunity to do exactly that. In addition, the project being related to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance means it is a chance to research something with real impact.

My project

Due to its high global burden, the acquisition of antibiotic resistance by S. pneumoniae is of growing concern in the field of AMR research. Resistance is acquired within this species largely thanks to its natural ‘competence’ state. In this state cells are able to expose, extract, and subsequently process the DNA of nearby non-competent cells for potential integration into their own genome. Induction of this competence state is controlled by a complex quorum sensing circuitry. My project seeks to use microfluidic devices in combination with fluorescence microscopy to investigate this state, with the hope of elucidating key factors that predict its onset. In the long term this may provide routes to disrupt resistance acquisition at the root, reducing the necessity of antibiotics.