Clifford Craig-funded research led by Associate Professor Stephen Tristram using ‘good’ bacteria

04 Dec 2019

Story courtesy of The Examiner Newspaper 30.11.19 – Jessica Willard – Health Reporter 

The practice of administering people with “good bacteria” or probiotics is an emerging approach to controlling infectious diseases.

New Tasmanian research aims to develop a nasal spray to introduce good bacteria strains, to fight the bad bacteria responsible for lower respiratory tract and ear infections.

Funded by the Clifford Craig Foundation, the project is being led by Associate Professor Stephen Tristram – the academic lead for laboratory medicine at the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences.

With bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, Associate Professor Tristram said it was crucial to develop new approaches in the treatment of chronic conditions.

“Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae is a bacterium that lives in the nose and throat in many people and usually does so harmlessly and without causing disease, ” he explained.  “However, under certain circumstances, the organism can move to the middle ear to cause ear infections in infants and young children, or to the lung.  “Particularly in those with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – where it causes bronchitis and pneumonia.  “These are both real problems because the normal way you deal with infection is to treat with antibiotics, but these bugs are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant.  Because they (bacteria) are so diverse in their surface structure – there is no vaccine either.

“We cant prevent and we cant reliably treat it.  So we need a different approach.”

The new approach proposed is Associate Professor Tristram’s research is to use a small proportion of good bacteria to essentially “Stave” the bad one of the essential nutrients.

Building on existing research, he said it had the potential to overcome the range of complications associated with antibiotics.  “If you treat someone with antibiotics, you treat them for seven days and the drug might, if you’re lucky, kill the bug that’s causing the disease,” he said.  “But it also kills the good stuff.”

Associate Professor Tristram said there was another closely related bacterium that also resides in the nose, but never causes disease.

“About four years ago, my research group noticed that some strains of Haemophilus haemolyticus appeared to inhibit the growth of Haemophilus influenzae in the laboratory,” he said.

“If you carry this good organism, you have an enormously reduced risk of infection with the bad one.”

With a long term goal of developing a probiotic nasal spray, Associate Professor Tristram said the result could be a treatment that was effective, less invasive and more affordable.

The research has just been accepted for publication in prestigious international medical journal Molecular Microbiology.