Renee Ng PhD Top Up Scholarship Recipient
We are very excited to announce that some of the proceeds from the 2018 Golf Classic will be used to fund two PhD Top Up Scholarships. These scholarships help support researchers who are working to further cystic fibrosis research.
The two most recent PhD scholarship recipients are Renee Ng (pictured) and Naomi Chapman. Read on for details of Renee’s exciting research project, and we look forward to sharing more details about Naomi’s project, working with nebulisers in adults with CF.
Renee is a first-year PhD student at The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute. She previously graduated with First Class Honours in Microbiology from The University of Queensland in 2014. In her honours, she studied the harmful effects multidrug resistant Escherichia coli strains cause, particularly in urinary tract infections. Her passion to address multidrug resistance bacterial infections in clinical settings spurred her to start a PhD this that is exploring the potential of bacteriophages to treat antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections in children with cystic fibrosis.
Renee’s Research Project
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by mutations to the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. Impairment to the CFTR protein which is the gatekeeper of chloride ion movement in and out of the cells, allows mucus to build up on the airway epithelial cells. The resulting environmental creates an ideal breeding ground for opportunistic bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa to grow. This contributes to chronic infections, causing permanent lung damage and loss of function. Pseudomonas aeruginosa easily develops resistance to the antibiotics typically used to treat it.
Presently, intravenous antibiotics are given over an extended period of time, sometimes at very high concentrations which can have significant side-effects including kidney damage. With little investment into discovery of novel antibiotics by the pharmaceutical industry, there is an urgent need to explore alternative therapeutics.
In my project, I will be revisiting the use of bacteriophages, or “phages” to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial lung infections in children with CF. Phages are bacterial viruses that use specific bacteria as a host to grow which in turn, kills it. Phage therapy is not a standardised treatment in Australia and many other western countries due to insufficient evidence about their use and effects in humans. However, phage therapy has been commonly used in Eastern Europe as treatment. We hypothesise that specific phages will show high activity against bacteria that cause chronic lung infection without detrimental effects on the body. Ultimately, my project aims to establish a screening tool for high throughput phage assessment and develop a potential therapeutic pipeline to treat affected children.