"""What better microbial challenge to unite agricultural and medical microbiologists than a microoorganism that reduces an onion to a macerated pulp, protects crops from diseases, devastates the health and social life of cystic fibrosis patients, and not only is resistant to the most famous antibiotic, penicillin, but can use it as a nutrient!"". The genus Burkholderia accommodates around 120 species that colonize a wide range of ecological niches and interact with hosts in different ways such as mutualism, commensalism or pathogenicity. Opportunistic pathogens like B. cenocepacia cause severe infections in cystic fibrosis and immunocompromised patients, and mutualists such as B. phytofirmans are beneficial to plants. Although very promising for agriculture, the use of the latter is severely restrained due to the potential threat that a few opportunistic pathogenic strains pose to human health. In the last years, a lot of effort has been invested into discriminating between the beneficial and the pathogenic strains. However, these studies have been unsuccessful so far and novel approaches are needed to better understand the potential risks/benefits associated to Burkholderia species before these can keep being used in agriculture.
Friends or foes? The GOOD OR BAD BUGS project aims to unravel the dissimilarities between the beneficial (the good) and the pathogenic (the bad) Burkholderia species. We hypothesize that differences in the genomes of the Burkholderia species allow them to colonize and interact with their host differently, leading to mutualism, commensalism or pathogenicity. In this project we will employ a cutting-edge high-throughput genetic screening method known as transposon-sequencing to study host colonization by members of the genus Burkholderia. This promising methodology will help to identify genes that provide a fitness in a particular environment. The outcome of the project will be of interest both at the agriculture and the medicine levels."
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