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Cook Lab's Mycobacteria metabolism discovery published in PNAS

A team led by Professor Greg Cook has this week published findings in the prestigious US journal PNAS that help to explain why mycobacteria are so hardy.

In collaboration with researchers in the US and Germany, the Microbiology and Immunology scientists have shown that hydrogen is a key factor that enables the aerobic soil microbe Mycobacterium smegmatis to persist for extreme lengths of time in the absence, or near-absence, of oxygen.

The team is currently testing whether these findings are extendable to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which could offer new hope for developing a revolutionary class of antibiotics to tackle TB.

Read the press release on the University of Otago website

Read the paper

Greg Cook and Chris Greening Web

L to R: Professor Greg Cook and Chris Greening. Image courtesy of Sharron Bennett.

Posted by Jo Cramond on 21/07/2014 at 12:00 PM

Department dominates winner's list in photo competition

Microbiology and Immunology staff and students have had great success in the Otago School of Medical Sciences Photo Competition. Gemma Laws won both the Student Prize and the Gut Health Network Prize, the Webster Centre award went to Vernon Ward and a new category, Te Ao Maori, for the prize that best represented the Maori World, was awarded to Ros Kemp. Michael Petridis and Judith Bateup's entries were both awarded Highly Commended.

The awards ceremony was held in conjunction with the opening of the New Zealand International Science Festival, with the photos providing a stunning backdrop for the speeches from Festival Director Chris Green, Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull, and Minister Stephen Joyce.

This year the competition attracted 107 entries from staff and students in the Otago School of Medical Sciences.  The winner of the Best Photo was Sarah Baird from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology for her photo "Busy, Busy, Busy". The entries can be viewed in an online gallery on the OSMS website or at the Art Society Rooms in the Dunedin Railway Station, 10am-4pm until July 13.

Pictured below from top to bottom: Gemma Laws' "Down the Microscope", Vernon Ward's "A Sea of Viruses", Ros Kemp's "Fern", Michael Petridis' "M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy" and Judith Bateup's "Hands On Science Fun".

Gemma Laws' photo Down the Microscope


Vernon Ward's photo A Sea of Viruses


Roslyn Kemp's photo Ferm


Michael Petridis' photo The Andromeda Galaxy


Judith Bateup's photo Hands On Science Fun


Posted by Jo Cramond on 8/07/2014 at 12:00 AM

Dr Peter Fineran recognized for outstanding research performance

University of Otago’s Carl Smith Medal and Rowheath Trust Award have been awarded this year to two early career researchers who have already made important international contributions to their disciplines.

Microbiology and Immunology’s Dr Peter Fineran and Surgical Sciences' Associate Professor Haxby Abbott are the co-recipients of the award and medal, which recognise outstanding research performance of early-career staff at the University and are accompanied by a $5000 grant for personal scholarly development.

Read the press release on the University of Otago website.

Associate Professor Haxby Abbott and Dr Peter Fineran

L to R: Associate Professor Haxby Abbott (Surgical Sciences) and Dr Peter Fineran (Microbiology and Immunology).

Posted by Jo Cramond on 7/07/2014 at 12:00 AM

Fulbright scholarship for Microbiology alumna Clare Burn

Clare Burn at the Fulbright awards

The department extends a big congratulations to Microbiology and Immunology graduate Clare Burn, who has received a Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award.

Fulbright awards are presented to promising New Zealand graduate students to allow them to undertake postgraduate study or research at US institutions in fields that support growth and innovation in New Zealand.

Clare will head to New York at the end of July to begin a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, specializing in infectious disease immunology.

“Having grown up in South Africa before coming to Otago, I’m especially interested in infectious diseases that are important in the developing world - I've witnessed the effects of HIV and TB in poor communities, and that experience is one of the main reasons that I chose to study Microbiology and Immunology.”

Clare completed an Honours degree in 2011, supervised by Merilyn Hibma in the VRU. After graduating she continued in the department, working in Jo Kirman’s lab at both the Malaghan Institute and at Otago University.

Every year approximately 14 Science and Innovation awards are offered, each valued at up to US$33,000. A total of 88 students were honoured as 2014 Fulbright grantees across all categories, making this year’s cohort a record.

Posted by Jo Cramond on 3/07/2014 at 12:00 AM

School groups get a closer look at microbiology

A school group in the Microbiology and Immunology teaching lab


While undergraduate students were enjoying their mid-semester break, students from seven high schools around Dunedin had the opportunity to take their place in the department’s teaching lab.

Facilitator Judith Bateup said this year’s groups were just as enthusiastic as ever. The senior students were given an introduction to Microbiology and Immunology, examining the form and structure of pond algae and protozoa samples.

Students from Kent Twaites’ Year 11 Otago Boys High School class were eager to take a look down the microscopes, asking the technicians plenty of questions. He said that while they are able to use lab equipment at school, they don’t always have the opportunity to engage with lots of experts who have real-world experience.

“There are some very bright sparks here that don’t necessarily know what they want to do yet, but we might light a few fires. For us as teachers, that’s what it’s all about.”

Posted by Jo Cramond on 1/07/2014 at 12:00 AM