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This project is one of the five winners of the call 2018 «Microbials – Direct Use of Micro-Organisms».
This project is co-financed by a FreeNovation Grant from the Novartis Foundation (PI. P. Junier), as well as by a new Science Focus Areas (SFAs) of the Department of Energy, USA (PI. P. Chain, co-PI, P. Junier). This project brings together people working in the fields of environmental microbiology, genomics, bioinformatics, medical bioengineering and environmental sensing from University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland; Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA; Agroscope, Switzerland; Newcastle University, United Kingdom.
Project no: GRS-064/18
Amount of funding: CHF 260'000
Duration: 01.2019 - 12.2021
Area of activity: Microbials, seit 2016
Prof. Dr. Pilar Junier
Université de Neuchâtel
Laboratory of Microbiology
Rue Emile-Argand 11
2000 Neuchâtel (Schweiz)
- pilar.junier@unine. ch
The emergence of resistant pathogenic fungi is a major threat a ecting not only human health, but also food security worldwide. The number of therapeutic alternatives for the treatment of fungal pathogens is very limited. The use of the same chemical agents in agriculture and medicine is favouring the emergence and spread of a large range of resistant opportunistic pathogens. Finding more sustainable approaches to control fungal pathogens is needed. In this project we propose to take away the focus of the ﬁght against the pathogen from direct antibiosis. Instead, we propose to target the environment, creating unsuitable conditions for the establishment of disease. For this, we propose to use nutritional interferance to create a system that deters colonization by the pathogen, allowing for a better reaction of the host. We propose to work in parallel in plant and animal models, to develop an approach that tackles the very topical issue of fungal resistance.
What is special about the project?
Taking advantage of the knowledge gained in microbial ecology of natural ecosystems and extrapolating this to anthropogenic ecosystems constitutes the novelty of this project. The use of trophic interactions is an innovative approach that, in contrast to traditional chemical warfare methods (i.e. antibiotics and pesticides), might offer a sustainable solution to tackle the worrisome rise of drug resistance in both animal and plant fungal pathogens. We propose to make an innovative application of principles largely accepted in the field of biocontrol of plant pathogens to human health. This comprehensive approach might constitute a more effective way to harness the potential of microbiomes to improve health and sustainability.
With this project we will be tackling one of the most worrisome threats to human health and food security: the emergence of fungal resistance. Surprisingly, fungal infections have been greatly neglected, in spite of their ubiquity and the cost on agricultural productivity (around 20% yield loses worldwide) and human health. By focusing on the trophic interaction between fungi and bacteria will demonstrate an alternative mechanism for the development of a new generation of therapeutic agents that reduce the risk of resistance selection.
We have previously investigated the metabolism of oxalate in soils, where consumption by heterotrophic bacteria is the main sink of oxalate. The relationship between the metabolism of oxalate in soils and improving human and plant health is the foundation of this project. The knowledge gained about oxalotrophy in soils is a stepping stone for the understanding of the potential of the “normal” host microbiome in regulating oxalate metabolism, as well as the establishment of a link with the onset of fungal infection. To prove the hypothesis of nutritional interference as a deterrent of fungal colonization, we have measured the production of low molecular weight organic acids (LMWOA) by selected opportunistic fungal pathogens, as well as the control exerted by oxalotrophic versus non-oxalotrophic bacteria on fungal growth. Based on the results obtained and the literature available, Aspergillus niger and Botrytis cinerea were selected as model organisms to investigate the potential of oxalotrophic bacteria to control fungal development in vitro. The overall results of the confrontation assays support the hypothesis of trophic interaction as a potential venue for controlling the development of opportunistic fungal pathogens.
Fisher, M.C., et al., Worldwide emergence of resistance to antifungal drugs challenges human health and food security. Science, 2018. 360(6390): p. 739-742;
Martin, G., et al., Fungi, bacteria and soil pH: the oxalate-carbonate pathway as a model for metabolic interaction. Environ Microbiol, 2012. 14(11): p. 2960-2970;
Herve, V., et al., Diversity and ecology of oxalotrophic bacteria. World J Microbiol Biotechnol, 2016. 32(2): p. 28;
Paulussen, C., et al., Ecology of aspergillosis: insights into the pathogenic potency of Aspergillus fumigatus and some other Aspergillus species. Microb Biotechnol, 2017. 10(2): p. 296-322;
Stanley, C.E., et al., Soil-on-a-Chip: microfluidic platforms for environmental organismal studies. Lab Chip, 2016. 16(2): p. 228-241;
Palmieri, F., et al. Oxalic acid, a molecule at the crossroads of bacterial-fungal interactions. Advances in Applied Microbiology, Academic Press. 2018. In press.
Persons involved in the project
The scientific team includes Pilar Junier
, Project leader, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland Fabio Palmieri
, PhD student, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland Aislinn Estoppey
, PhD Student, University of Neuchâtel, SwitzerlandDr. Patrick S. Chain
, Co-Project leader, Biosciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA Dr. Jennifer Harris
, Co-Project leader, Biosciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, USADr. Claire Stanley
, Co-Project leader, Ambizione Fellow, Agroscope, SwitzerlandProf. Anil Wipat
, Co-Project leader, Newcastle University, UK
The administrative team includesClaudia Nash
, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland Roberta Lopes-Ventura
, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Last update to this project presentation 07.01.2020