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Bacterial Evolution: A Perspective

In a perspective piece published in the journal Nature Microbiology, Dr. Brian Coombes touches on the mechanisms underlying the evolution and maintenance of bacterial virulence – a topic, he says, that remains “under scrutiny in contemporary microbiology.”

He writes: “As many people grapple with the emergence of new pathogens, the evolution of drug resistance and the demise of our antibiotic arsenal, questions have been raised about whether alternative therapeutic targets might be found in pathogen evolution itself or the virulence traits that are selected for.”

Throughout the piece, Dr. Coombes focuses on a recent study that examined the use of genome sequencing to track the molecular evolution of chronic Salmonella Enteritidis in an immunocompromised individual.

The study’s findings, despite being limited to single isolates collected over time, offer an intriguing glimpse into this evolutionary process, Dr. Coombes concludes.

“Studies such as this help to uncover the selective forces shaping bacterial evolution in the host and bring us closer to exploiting these processes in the design of new treatments.”

Dr. Coombes is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences. He is also the Assistant Dean, Biochemistry Graduate Program, in the Faculty of Health Sciences.