Amy Tooke

Seeing is believing, observing bacterial biofilm formation in vivo

About me

I have a background in microbiology, beginning with my BSc from the University of Sheffield in 2015 in Biochemistry and Microbiology. I then worked as a laboratory technician for a year at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, on a project with cyanobacteria. I returned to studying with my MRes in the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at Newcastle University imaging B. subtilis cell division proteins, before coming back to where I started in Sheffield last year for my PhD.

My project

My project is looking at the interactions between the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus and the immune system during an infection. S. aureus has the ability to form a community of individual bacterial cells living together surrounded by a protective layer. This structure is known as a biofilm, and in a clinical setting S. aureus can form biofilms on medical implants such as joint replacements and catheters, on surfaces inside the body such as the heart lining, or by forming an abscess. Biofilms protect bacteria from perturbations such as immune cells trying to clear the infection, or antibiotics given to a patient.

To observe the interactions between an S. aureus infection and a living host, I use the zebrafish embryo infection model. Currently I am looking at the effect of antibiotic treatment on an infection, and at what timing post-infection treatment can cure the fish. The fact that the embryos are transparent means that fluorescence microscopy can be carried on infected embryos to study the infection progressing and the host-pathogen interactions in a living host in real-time. Moving forward I will image what happens in living infected fish when they are treated with antibiotics and study the expression of biofilm-related genes by the S. aureus cells using fluorescent reporters.


Not yet available.