Elliot Horlick, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering
The overuse of antibiotics has enabled bacteria to grow increasingly resistant to them. The ultimate goal of the research I conducted over the summer in the Brynildsen Laboratory was to make bacteria more susceptible to antibacterial effects. Our aim was to hinder the ability of bacteria to acquire resistance to antibiotics by altering their metabolism so that they produce higher-than-normal amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS such as hydrogen peroxide are produced in small amounts by all aerobic organisms and cause greater levels of oxidative damage than oxygen does. Antibiotics utilize ROS to fight bacteria, so increasing the basal level of ROS in bacteria aids antibiotics in killing them: ROS levels in bacterial cells exposed to antibiotics would be so high that the induced oxidative damage would become too great for the bacterium cell to handle. My summer research was the first step in learning how to manipulate bacterial ROS levels: searching the scientific literature for quantitative information about and creating a kinetic model of all reactions in Escherichia coli that consume hydrogen peroxide. I look forward to continuing my work on this project and eventually using the information predicted by my model to discover ways of increasing bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics.