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Microbiology Logo Microbiology & Immunology
Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate

Associate Professor Michelle McConnell

Research interests:

Applied immunology, medical microbiology, microbial pathogenesis

Current research:

Dr McConnell is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Current research in her group, as part of a wider Ag Research MBIE funded project (with Aladin Bekhit Food Science and Alan Carne Biochemistry), is primarily centered on the immunomodulatory effects of sheep milk in comparison with cow and goat milk, along with the microbiological status of the sheep milk.  The sheep industry is a relatively young industry in New Zealand and the milk is predominantly used for cheese making in addition to some baby formula for the Chinese market. As part of the project she is co-supervising a PhD student Keegan Burrow from the Food Science Department who is investigating the bioavailability of minerals in sheep milk.

She is also co-supervising another PhD student Yakun Hou who as part of her PhD study. is investigating the bioactivity and anti-microbial effects of extracts from kina shell and spines

In addition, along with Professor Greg Cook and his team she is investigating new sanitisiers for mastitis. This research that has been funded by AgMardt and MBIE. 

As well, Dr McConnell has an interest in the normal microflora of the gastrointestinal tract and is continuing some collaborative work with Dr Heather Brooks in the Department Pathology on necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is an acquired intestinal disease primarily found in premature neonates and which has a high mortality rate. At present, it is a disease of unknown origin, although many factors including microbes, an immature intestinal epithelial barrier and an immature host defense system have been implicated. Current research is centred around the use of probiotic strains of bacteria and how they may prevent disease.

Newer research in the laboratory is centered around collaborations with the Centre for Materials Science and Technology (Dr Azam Ali)and the Department of Chemistry (Dr Jaydee Cabral).  We are currently homing a 3D bioprinter and along with Dr Jaydee Cabral and Dr Azam Ali had a Masters student  (thesis under examination) Eve Hewitt who investigated the use of milk proteins using melt electro-writing to develop a scaffold for wound healing. We also have a PhD student Tajul Islam who is making new wound dressing incorporating anti-microbial natural product extracts using an ecletorspinning technique.

In 2018 we had a 4th year honours student Carmel Donald who was working on a project as part of the masitis MBIE to find new compounds effective against biofilms and the mode of action of the compounds.

Sonya Mros is the senior research technician and lab manager for the group and assists the students with their projects and learning new techniques as well as taking the lead role in externally funded projects.

Other activities


Welsh Grace, Ryder Kate, Brewster Jodi, Walker Christina, Mros Sonya, Bekhit Alla El-Din, McConnell Michelle and Carne Alan (2017). Comparison of bioactive peptides prepared from sheep cheese whey using a food-grade bacterial and a fungal protease preparation. International Journal of Food Science and Technology doi:10.1111/ijfs.13392

Jade Chia, Keegan Burrow, Alan Carne, Michelle McConnell, Linda Samuelsson, Li Day,Wayne Young, Alaa El-Din Ahmed Bekhit (2017). “Minerals in Sheep milk” in “Nutrients in Dairy and Their Implications on Health and Disease” Edited by: Ronald Ross Watson, Robert J. Collier, and Victor Preedy, Elsevier Publishing. Chapter 27 p 345- 362

Mros Sonya, Carne Alan, Ha Minh, Bekhit AlaaEl-Din, Young Wayne, McConnell Michelle (2017) Comparison of the bioactivity of whole and skimmed digested sheep milk with that of digested goat and cow milk in functional cell culture assays. Small Ruminant Research

K. Ryder, A. Bekhit, M. McConnell and A. Carne Towards generation of bioactive peptides from meat industry waste proteins: generation of peptides using commercial microbial proteases Food Chemistry 208:42-50 (2016)

C.S.F. Bah, A. Carne, M. A. McConnell, S Mros and A. Bekhit,  Production of Bioactive Peptide Hydrolysates from Deer, Sheep, Pig and Cattle Red Blood Cell Fractions Using Plant and Fungal Protease Preparations Food Chemistry  202: 458-466 (2016)

Bekhit A.E. A., S. Mros, M.A. Ali and M. McConnell Chitosan is a highly effective in vitro antibacterial agent against the strains of bacteria causing footrot but is not effective in treating stage four footrot on farm. 2015 Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production. Vol 75: 172-174

M. Ha, M. Sabherwal, E. Duncan, S. Stevens, P. Stockwell,M. McConnell, A. Bekhit, A. Carne  In-Depth Characterization of Sheep (Ovis aries) Milk Whey Proteome and Comparison with Cow (Bos taurus) PLOS One DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0139774 October 8th 2015

Clara S.F. Bah, Alaa El-Din A. Bekhit, Alan Carne, Michelle A. McConnell Production of Bioactive Peptide Hydrolysates from Deer, Sheep, and Pig Plasma Using Plant and Fungal Protease Preparations Food Chemistry 176: 54-63 (2015)

Clara SF Bah, Alaa El-din A Bekhit, Alan Carne, Michelle A McConnell Composition and biological activities of slaughterhouse blood from red deer, sheep, pig and cattle Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture doi: 10.1002/jsfa.7062 (2015)

Jaydee D. Cabral, Michelle A. McConnell, Clare Fitzpatrick, Sonya Mros, Gail Williams, Peter J. Wormald, Stephen C. Moratti, Lyall R Hanton Characterization of the in vivo host response to a bi-labeled chitosan-dextran based hydrogel for postsurgical adhesion prevention Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A 12/2014 DOI: 10.1002/jbm.a.35395

Jaydee D. Cabral, Marina Roxburgh, Zheng Shi, Liqi Liu, Michelle McConnell, Gail Williams, Natasha Evans, Lyall R Hanton, Jim Simpson, Stephen C Moratti, Brian H Robinson, Peter J Wormald, Simon Robinson Synthesis, physiochemical characterization, and biocompatibility of a chitosan/dextran-based hydrogel for postsurgical adhesion prevention. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine DOI 10.1007/s10856-014-5292-3 (2014)

Sally D. Poppitt, Robin A. McGregor, Katy R. Weissing, Vimal K. Goyal, Amar J. Chitkara, Sarika Gupta, Kate Palmano, Barbara Kuhn-Sherlock and Michelle A. McConnell Bovine Complex Milk Lipid Containing Gangliosides for Prevention of Rotavirus Infection and Diarrhoea in Northern Indian Infants. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 59 (2): 167-171 (2014)

Ha M, Bekhhit A, McConnell M, Mason S, Carne A Fractionation of whey proteins from red deer (Cervus elaphus) milk and comparison with whey proteins from cow, sheep and goat milks. Small Ruminant Research (125-134) (2014)

Aziz MA, Cabral JD, Brooks HJL, McConnell MA, Fitzpatrick C, Hanton LR, Moratti SC. In vitro biocompatibility and cellular interactions of a chitosan/dextran-based hydrogel used for postsurgical adhesion prevention. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research: Part B – Applied Biomaterials 00B:000–000. DOI: 10.1002/jbm.b.33206 (2014)

Clara S.F. Bah, Alaa El-Din A. Bekhit, Alan Carne and Michelle A. McConnell“Slaughterhouse Blood: An Emerging Source of Bioactive Compounds” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 12: 314-331 (2013)

Brooks HJL, McConnell MA, Broadbent RS. Microbes and the Inflammatory Response in Necrotising Enterocolitis (2013). In Preterm Birth ed. O. Erez, ISBN: 978-953-51- 0952-5 InTech, pp.137–174.

Mros S, Ali MA, Bekhit A, McConnell M (2012). In vitro evaluation of the antimicrobial effects of chitosan against bacteria involved in ovine footrot. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 72: 196-198

Vern Jou Cheng, Alaa El-Din A. Bekhit, Michelle McConnell, Sonya Mros, Jenny Zhao   “Effect of extraction solvent, waste fraction and grape variety on the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of extracts from wine residue from cool climate” Food Chem 134:474-482 (2012)

Alaa El-Din A. Bekhit, Vern Jou Cheng, Michelle McConnell, Jenny H. Zhao, Richard Sedcole, Roland Harrison"Antioxidant activities, sensory and anti-influenza activity of grape skin tea infusion." Food Chem 129: 837-845 (2011)

Bah, Clara Shui Fern; Fang, Evandro Fei; Ng, Tzi Bun; Mros, Sonya; McConnell, Michelle; Bekhit, Alaa el-din "Purification and characterization of a rhamnose-binding chinook salmon roe lectin with antiproliferative activity toward tumor cells and nitric oxide-inducing activity toward murine macrophages" Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59: 5720-5728 (2011)

Biological Acitivity of Lipid and Protein Derivatives from Bovine Milk on Human Rotavirus strain Wa in vitro M A McConnell, G Buchan, C, Fitzpatrick and A MacGibbon WO 2009/020405

Brooks H J L., McConnell M A, Corbett J, Buchan G S, Fitzpatrick C and Broadbent R S. Potential prophylactic value of bovine colostrum in necrotizing enterocolitis in neonates: an in vitro study on bacterial attachment, antibody levels and cytokine production. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 48: 347-354 (2006)

Davis C, McConnell M, Slobbe L, Haggarty N, Buchan G. Murine antigen-presenting cells are multifunctional in vitro biosensors for detecting the immunoactive potential of bovine milk products. JNutr 135(11) 2651-6 (2005)

Brooks H.J.L., Ahmed D., McConnell M.A., Barbezat G.O. Diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection by polymerase chain reaction: is it worth it? Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease 50: 1-5 (2004)

Ahmed D, Brooks H, McConnell M, Barbezat G. Antibiotic resistance in Helicobacter pylori: is it a problem in New Zealand? The New Zealand Medical Journal 117: 1-6 (2004)

McConnell, Michelle A, Glenn Buchan, Michail V Borissenko and Heather J L Brooks. A comparison of IgG and IgG1 activity in an early milk concentrate from non-immunised cows and a milk from hyperimmunised animals. Food Research International 34:255-261 (2001)