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PhD grant to help antibiotic research

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A University of Otago PhD student hopes his research into antibiotic resistance will reduce the threat of infectious disease among Maori communities.

Howard Maxwell has been awarded a Maori health research scholarship by the Health Research Council.

He says resistance mechanisms have been observed for nearly every commonly-used antibiotic, and the world is rapidly approaching a post-antibiotic era where no treatment will exist against seemingly insignificant infections.

Maori will be particularly vulnerable due to increased susceptibility to infectious organisms and reliance on antibiotics.

Mr Maxwell is looking at the communication processes within bacteria that control the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.

"They've basically got a multitude of defensive systems but we focus on one, CRISPR-Cas, which stops genes being passed from one bacteria to another, so we hope to understand how bacteria communicate so we can enhance those defence mechanisms to stop that spread," he says.

He's motivated in part by growing up in Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty, where his predominantly Maori community is over-represented in poverty and poor health.

The Health Research Council made 17 Maori career development awards in its latest funding round.



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