In an era of antimicrobial resistance, alternatives to antibiotics to prevent or treat infectious diseases are urgently needed.
Pathogens present a wide range of species-specific carbohydrates and carbohydrate-binding proteins on their cell surfaces, which provide novel opportunities for pathogen detection, prevention and intervention through diet or with novel therapeutics.
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are currently the subject of intense investigation worldwide due to a plethora of claimed health benefits.
However, the evidence base to substantiate such claims is limited, partly due to the lack of availability of pure compounds for evaluation and partly due to a lack of understanding of their molecular mechanism of action.
The goal Jess’ project is to develop efficient enzymatic routes for the production of defined HMOs that are not currently available, and molecular probes derived therefrom.
These materials will then be used to develop an understanding of the impact of HMO carbohydrate structure on bioactivity – prebiotic for commensals, receptor decoy for pathogens, stimulant of the host immune system.
Ultimately the aim of the project is to find ways of extending the shelf-life of currently available antibiotics or develop alternative bioactive antimicrobials for the future to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance.