Illness caused by respiratory infection with Influenza viruses represents a vast healthcare and economic burden in the modern world. It is well established that respiratory viral infections are often complicated by secondary bacterial infections, however co-infection often causes a much more severe disease than either microorganism would individually. The mechanisms behind this synergy are not fully understood, however adhesion; the first step in bacterial colonisation, has been shown to be enhanced in virus-infected cells. We hypothesise that early events following Influenza infection of lung epithelium promote bacterial adhesion by regulating primary receptor trafficking and may offer new targets for anti-bacterial intervention.
The aims of this project are to dynamically characterise the adhesion of individual bacteria to airway epithelial cells with high-temporal and spatial resolution and to study the effects of Influenza A co-infection on this phenomenon. We will develop new protocols to track bacteria in three dimensions in order to study individual adhesion events and will calculate diffusion modes during and after bacterial contact with the host cells. These studies will provide novel insights into the processes underlying bacterial adhesion and will explore the mechanism of viral-bacterial synergy to discover new targets for the prevention and treatment of serious respiratory infections.
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