NT Field Naturalists Club Logo

April Meeting - Germs are Wildlife Too presented by Philip Giffard

Wednesday Apr 11 7:45 pm

Duration: 1.5 hours

The presentation will address new findings concerning the human pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, and Chlamydia trachomatis.

Staphylococcus aureus is often known as “Golden Staph”. It is a common cause of disease in humans. Although it is a particular danger to hospitalised patients, it is increasingly associated with severe skin infections in the general population. Strains first identified in the Northern Territory provided the basis for the discovery of a new “Silver Staph” species very closely related to "Golden Staph". This is now known to be a previously undetected, globally distributed human pathogen. Remarkably, this work encompassed the discovery of a third species within this closely related complex. This is found mainly in non-human primates in Africa.

Chlamydia trachomatis is the bacterium that causes the most common form of sexually transmitted infection (STI) called chlamydia. It also causes the blinding eye disease trachoma. On the basis of evidence from Africa and Asia, it has long been dogma that different evolutionary lineages were adapted to cause either STI or trachoma. However, genetic analysis of trachoma associated isolates from the Northern Territory has disrupted this model. It was found that transfer of only 1-2 genes between strains was sufficient to change the favoured niche from urogenital to ocular. This is a fundamental change in understanding of the relationship between genetic complement, and natural history for this organism.

Biography: Philip Giffard has been a researcher and academic in the field of molecular microbiology for more than 30 years. His career has encompassed stints at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland (1983-86), the Institute of Dental Research in Sydney (1986-93), and Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane (1993-2008). Phil has been in Darwin since 2008 and is currently Head of Laboratory Science at the Menzies School of Health Research, and Professor of Medical Laboratory Science at Charles Darwin University. In his spare time, Philip enjoys playing the saxophone and running, but not usually at the same time.

Photo: "Silver Staph” (Staphylococcus argenteus), a recently discovered species of non-pigmented bacterium closely related to “Golden Staph” (Staphylococcus aureus). A colony of Staphylococcus argenteus is on the right of this culture and Staphylococcus aureus is on the left. Photo reproduced with permission from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21813488


CDU Casuarina, Room BLUE 2.1.51

Long: 130.871368 Lat: -12.371881