Since graduating from a microbiology degree at the University of Leeds, I set out to understand more about the microbial world by studying a wide array of different disciplines. These range from ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, microfluidics, computational statistics, biochemistry and electrochemistry. Though seemingly diverse, the unifying theme in all of these fields is that they helped me to better understand different microbial processes from commensalism to infection. Most of my research has centred around the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. I have a passion for interdisciplinary research and my current position allows me to explore this. I am interested in applying the emerging fields of tissue microbiology and organic bioelectronics to understand the way that bacteria colonise indwelling medical devices such as catheters.
Bacterial colonisation of catheters and other indwelling medical devices are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in hospitals. When growing on catheters, normally harmless bacteria from the patients' own skin (such as S. aureus and S. epidermidis) have the ability to jeopardise treatments from chemotherapy to surgery by initiating potentially life threatening infections. Today, treatment of these infections is complicated by widespread resistance to antibiotics in what has been termed the post-antibiotic era. In the lab, treatment of these infections is relatively simple. If we have enough time, we can thoroughly characterise the bacteria and design a very effective treatment sequence. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible in the hospital ward. Medical staff are required to make snap treatment decisions based on incomplete information. My research focuses on this major problem. Medical staff need information about bacterial infections of patients immediately if they are to be able to use it to modify treatment. I aim to address this problem in 3 ways:
Can we predict patients that will succumb to an infection? Many factors influence the infection process, if we can identify key determinants involved then we can develop a screening protocol to determine the risk category of a patient. This will allow for provision of prophylactic care or very early treatment.
Medical staff need to know the cause of an infection far sooner than current diagnostic techniques can deliver. I am using conducting polymers to develop in situ early detection devices.
I also aim to integrate treatment into early detection processes, using electrical signals to promote the controlled release of specific antimicrobial drugs in response to an infection. I am a keen interdisciplinary researcher. If you think my work sounds interesting or relates to you in some way please contact me and we can start talking - who knows where it might lead. My email address is: Benjamin.Libberton@ki.se