Writer: Courtney Coufal, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Jason Gill, Texas A&M AgriLife research scientist, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science and member of the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M, has been awarded a $411,125 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the basic biology of bacteriophages (phages) – viruses that naturally infect and kill bacteria.
The study will examine the biology of one of the major groups of phages that infect Staphylococcus aureus, an opportunistic pathogen that harms humans and animals, with an eye towards developing these phages as an antibacterial therapy.
The grant, which is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will be distributed over a two year period.
“We congratulate Dr. Gill on receiving the prestigious NIH grant,” said Dr. Russell Cross, professor and head of animal science. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Gill on our faculty, as he holds a great understanding of bacteriophage biology and the important benefits phages can bring in fighting diseases in both animals and humans.”
Shortly after the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, strains of bacteria that were resistant to these drugs began to emerge, Gill said. S. aureus is of major concern in both human and animal health due to its virulence and the bacterial strains that are resistant to multiple antibiotics including methicillin-resistant S.aureus (MRSA), which is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States and worldwide.
Outside of S. aureus and MRSA, antibiotic resistance in a variety of pathogenic bacteria is a health threat that becomes more substantial each year, Gill said.
“The use of phages is receiving increasing interest as a possible means of combating pathogenic bacteria, including S. aureus. The better we understand how these phages function, the more effectively we will be able to deploy them as potential treatments,” Gill said.
The goal of the project is two-fold. The first focus is to study the genetics and biology of a phage called K, a specific phage that infects S. aureus. Secondly, Gill hopes to use his findings to develop methods that can be used to engineer and manipulate phage K and other K-like phages.
“The strategies developed here should also be useful in other phage systems, catalyzing progress in the field of phage biology as a whole,” Gill said.
Gill will lead the project in collaboration with scientists in the Center for Phage Technology. Gill’s previous research with phages involved looking at their behavior and application. He said this project will launch a significant new direction for his research, to study a group of organisms that scientists know little about at the molecular level.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.