Welsh and Australian Biomedical Researchers Team up to Tackle Infections in Pregnant Women and Babies

​30/05/2017

​Lucy Furfaro from UWA and Cardiff Met's Dr Mike Beeton.

Scientists in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiff School of Health Sciences are collaborating with the University of Western Australia (UWA) to look at brand new ways to prevent and treat infections in pregnant women and newborn children.

Cardiff Met Lecturer in Medical Microbiology, Dr Mike Beeton is working with UWA PhD student, Lucy Furfaro to look at the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacterium which causes significant infections during pregnancy as well as life-threatening sepsis among newborns.

The work being undertaken will examine the ability of bacteriophage, which occur naturally in the environment, to fight GBS bacteria when they are growing as a mass of cells in the pregnant women’s body.

These communities of cells, known as biofilms, can be 1000-fold more tolerant to conventional antibiotics, therefore making treatment less effective.

It is envisaged that the bacteriophage will be able to remove these bacterial cells as well as reduce the number of antibiotics being prescribed, therefore aiding in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Dr Mike Beeton, Lecturer in Medical Microbiology at Cardiff Met commented:  “Approximately 30 to 40% of pregnant women may be colonised with this GBS bacteria yet remain unaffected – thereby inadvertently passing the bacteria to their newborn baby.

“Through this collaborative project with UWA we will be able to address questions regarding the mechanisms by which GBS may persistently colonise pregnant women, as well as identifying novel approaches to prevent and treat infections among newborns.”

Miss Lucy Furfaro, PhD student at UWA added: “This alternative to antibiotics is gaining more interest with the increasing rates of antibiotic resistance in a number of bacteria and minimal new antibiotic discovery.

The narrow spectrum of phages make them ideal for single pathogen targets, and for reducing loss of other beneficial bacteria that are often affected by antibiotic use as a consequence.”

This collaboration is possible via a Royal Society International Exchanges Scheme held between Cardiff Metropolitan University and University of Western Australia, in partnership with a UWA and Graduate Women Research Scholarship and the Australian Government Research Training Program.