Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland
Identification of the antibacterial mechanism of action of synthetic CBD
I am a 2nd year microbiology Global Challenges PhD scholar using genetics to understand how Cannabidiol (CBD) kills some antibiotic resistant bacteria. This will help in the development of CBD as a new antibiotic in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria and to potentially create CBD analogues with improved activity. I aim to achieve this by evaluating what genetics variants are induced by CBD treatment and what effects CBD has on the gene expression profile of the bacteria treated with sublethal concentrations of CBD. Additionally, I will evaluate the effects that CBD has on cell morphology (shape/structure) and where it is found in the cell through microscopy.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health and development threat. The frequency and incidence rate of antimicrobial resistant infections is constantly rising. The World Health Organisation has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats. Each year an estimated 5 million people die with an AMR infection, a number greater than the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
Without effective antimicrobials, the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy, would be at increased risk. If we do not discover new and effective therapeutics it is estimated that globally 10 million people will die per year by 2050 due to antibiotic resistant infections.
In addition to death and disability, prolonged illness results in longer hospital stays, the need for more expensive medicines and financial challenges for those affected. Research into new treatments for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria can help to preserve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics. By developing new therapies that can treat resistant infections without relying on traditional antibiotics, researchers can help to reduce the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, which is a major driver of antimicrobial resistance. This can help to ensure that antibiotics remain effective for future generations and can continue to be used to treat common infections.
Developing new therapeutics will benefit people of all ages, especially the immunocompromised and the elderly. Furthermore, by having effective therapeutics against these resistant infections, the burden on hospitals will be reduced, as the number of hospitalisations due to AMR infections will decrease.
Developing new treatments for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria can also have significant economic benefits for Queensland. By creating new drugs that can treat resistant infections, researchers can create new opportunities for Queensland-based pharmaceutical and biotech companies, which can generate jobs and revenue for the state.
In addition, by collaborating with other researchers and institutions around the world, Queensland-based researchers can contribute to a broader understanding of the issue and help to develop effective solutions that can benefit people worldwide. This will have the effect of boosting the research image of Queensland globally.
I was born in Poland in the early 90s, when Poland had just regained its independence from the communist era. I moved to Australia when I was 9 years old without any English and not a great knowledge of life “at the end of the world”.
I knew that I wanted to study science since I was a young girl dreaming of studying medicine one day. My parents have always supported my career aspirations in science. In high school I fell in love with chemistry, biotechnology, and human biology. I decided to apply for a Bachelor of Biotechnology at Monash University in Melbourne where I discovered my real passion - microbiology. However, between my second and third year I suffered a severe stroke. I was told that I would likely never walk again or move my left arm, as I was completely paralysed on my left side. Many doctors as well as some of my old tutors doubted I would ever be able to finish my bachelor’s degree. But my perseverance and stubbornness allowed me to regain the ability to walk again after taking a year off University to focus on my recovery. I still battle the effect of the stroke on daily basis, such as debilitating fatigue affecting my cognitive abilities, left side weakness, problems with walking and using my left hand, but I am back living the life the best I can.
I am not only a young stroke survivor, but I also had to overcome an antibiotic resistant infection when I was at my lowest point – just after my transfer from ICU to a post stroke ward. Whilst recovering from my stroke, I contracted Clostridioides Difficile, which ultimately inspired me to pursue research in combating antimicrobial resistance.
As a woman who has a disability, came to Australia from a different country and uses English as a second language, I’ve had to overcome a wide range of challenges to get to where I am. I believe my determination to achieve can be an inspiration to all women and girls by demonstrating the value of hard work, dedication, and a passion for learning. It's essential to highlight the diverse range of STEM fields and showcase the contributions made by women and underrepresented groups. Encouraging and supporting young women to pursue their interests in STEM and providing them with mentorship and guidance can help empower them to succeed and become excellent role models for future generations.
In addition to starting my PhD, I have also volunteered to become a Student Science Ambassador at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. As a science ambassador I bring potential students on tours through our amazing laboratories and talk about the work that my research group does towards combating antimicrobial resistance. I have had the opportunity to engage with audiences of all ages. I was asked to be involved in the filming of an educational video on how to build a bacterial cell out of jelly, as an activity to promote interest in STEM in school aged children (year 7-8).
I am an active member of the Biotechnology Society at the University of Queensland, where I work as a liaison between the society and the institute where I work, to connect undergraduate students to research opportunities.
I have also volunteered several times as a participant of different stroke research projects, most recently contributing to the development of a robot that will help stroke survivors learn how to walk again.
In the future I would like to travel to schools to promote pursuing studying a STEM discipline and subsequently a career in STEM and to talk about my journey in my STEM career.