You are here

Tales In Aquatic Microbiology

Event Type: 
Event Date: 
12 November 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
ASE 3-D Visualization Lab (N2-B1c-16c)
Dr. Maurizio Labbate, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
About the speaker: 

Maurizio holds a Bsc (Hons) and PhD in Microbiology and has published approximately 50 documents including journal publications, book chapters, books and policy-related papers. He has attracted over AU$3 million dollars in external funding and leads a research group with core expertise in bacterial evolution with a strong focus on lateral gene transfer, the mechanism by which bacteria share genetic information. His research groups’ broad goal is to apply their core expertise in bacterial evolution to address One Health problems that straddle environmental, medical (e.g. antimicrobial resistance) and agricultural sciences (e.g. diseases affecting aquaculture).

Over the last 5 years, Maurizio has expanded his research activity to include One Health principles – a concept that recognises the links between human, animal and environmental systems in infectious disease and therefore, requires approaches to be multidisciplinary. As a result, he has led or participated in highly collaborative research that integrates expertise across multiple disciplines including microbiology (medical and environmental), eco-toxicology, microbial ecology, aquaculture, veterinary science, social sciences (including human geography) and decision-making, policy development and One Health governance. He has engaged with the Australian Federal Government unit responsible for Antimicrobial Resistance policy making in order to address explicit knowledge gaps they identified. In addition, he has engaged with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and associated oyster farmers to address infectious diseases affecting the industry. His capacity to work across the field of bacterial evolution and applied human/policy sciences provides him with a unique capacity to draw links between human behaviour and infectious disease problems and subsequently to generate effective policy responses, ensuring his research engages with end-users and has an impact.

Maurizio’s research in antimicrobial resistance is recognised nationally and internationally. He is an advisor on the board for Global Alliance for Infections in Surgery and was Rapporteur at the 2016 Australian Academy of Sciences Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank. He contributed a commentary to the AMR Control 2017 book alongside contributors such as the World Bank Group and The Federal Republic of German Ministry and engaged in public outreach including the publication of two articles in The Conversation on antibiotic resistance. He has been invited to be on the Scientific Advisory Committee and Local Organising Committee for Global Health Security 2019 in Sydney.


About the event: 

Aquatic ecosystems harbour diverse microorganisms that play key roles in ecosystem productivity and biogeochemistry. However, a minor proportion, such as bacteria from the Vibrio genera, are important human and aquaculture pathogens. Additionally, aquatic systems are often the end point for human, animal and industrial waste. As aquatic systems are extensively used for food production and recreation, pathogens and contaminating waste are a risk to human health requiring One Health multidisciplinary approaches. In this research seminar, three tales will be presented on how environmental factors (natural and anthropogenic) affect the microbial ecology of aquatic systems and the evolution of bacteria and, how this interaction impacts on human health and food security. The first tale highlights recent collaborative research investigating the influence of stormwater input on the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes in estuaries and beaches in Sydney, Australia. Genes conferring resistance to a variety of clinically important antibiotics increase by up to 100-fold above normal levels following major rainfall events (typically those >50 mm) that result in raw sewage overflow into the stormwater system. The risks of this pollution to the local human population is discussed. The second tale investigates the role of the natural oyster microbiota (also called the oyster microbiome) in buffering or augmenting oyster disease outbreaks in aquaculture and its links to the environment and, its effect on oyster health and disease susceptibility. How this research assists the practices of the oyster industry are provided. The final tale focuses on the aquatic bacterial pathogen Vibrio cholerae, responsible for the devastating diarrhoeal disease cholera affecting multiple continents including Asia. The success of this pathogen is driven by its capacity to survive in the aquatic environment in between outbreaks and to change via lateral gene transfer, a bacterial process that facilitates the sharing of DNA between cells. This tale will describe research into a specific genetic element in V. cholerae that is a major source of genetic diversity and an important adaptive mechanism. The final part of the talk will focus on the forward vision of my research relative to these specific areas and areas that overlap with researchers in ASE and SCELSE.