by crossriverwatch admin
Linda Boniface Oyama is a microbiologist from Ofumbongha No.1 Obubra LGA in Cross River State. She is presently doing her PhD project at the Aberystwyth University, Wales, United Kingdom. Her research work aimed at tackling the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics and has characterized over 80 novel antimicrobials from microscopic bacteria in a cow’s rumen; with the potential to be used in treating bacterial infections in humans. Her work is making headlines in the UK and European Media.
In this interview with CrossRiverWatch, Linda talks about her exploits and the need for the state government to continue to assist her in her research.
Tell us about your work which is being celebrated in the UK and elsewhere?
I am trying to find new and alternate treatments for infections caused by microbes. In view of the fact that antibiotics currently in use are losing their effectiveness against these microbes due to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Instead of using traditional drug discovery methods, I am using next generation technologies, metagenomics, genetic sequencing and sequence analysis by bioinformatic methods to prospect or mine the rumen of cows for new compounds. These compounds can be in form of bacteriocins (small proteins that are able to kill bacteria) and antimicrobial peptides, which are mostly naturally occurring and have broad activity against different classes of microbes. New antibiotics are indeed the most urgent call for action even on the WHO platform.
Who is collaborating with you on this project?
However, progress from the work has attracted collaborations between my institution (Aberystwyth University, Wales, United Kingdom) and Institutions in London (St. Georges University of London, University of Bangor, and in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
What is the level of progress you have made and how is that accepted by your colleagues across the UK?
Preliminary results from this work have been presented at various conferences in the past year SGM 2013, iEOS 2013, IMAP 2013 and Rowett-INRA 2014. Just recently, the UK Government has awarded a grant to further support this work. Although, this means that if Cross River State doesn’t continue to support the work at this stage, they may lose out on this in the end.
Has Cross River State stopped supporting you?
I am in the final year of my studies, and it has been exactly 19 months since I last received any support from the state despite many letters and calls through different avenues. Cross River State must do her best to continue to be part of this research as other nations are getting involved in the fight against bacterial infections and antimicrobial resistance. I hope that they will see the news and sit up.
HER WORK IN THE NEWS:
Research work by a Nigerian student, Linda Boniface Oyama from Cross River State is trending in the UK and European media. Dr Sharon Huws who heads the team where Linda works says cows may hold the key to antibiotics of the future.
As part of the worldwide effort, Dr Huws and her team at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are urgently taking action to tackle the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics and have characterized over 80 novel antimicrobials from microscopic bacteria in a cow’s rumen; with the potential to be used in treating bacterial infections in humans.
Dr Sharon Huws, a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol Lecturer in animal Science at IBERS said; “The rumen houses a vast quantity of microbes which essentially degrade forages eaten by the animal and release nutrients for their growth. In the rumen the microbes work together as a partnership but often compete with each other.
We have known for many years that some of the rumen microbes produce the antimicrobial bacteriocin, which aids their competitiveness in the rumen.
Therefore it seemed likely that they also produced other antimicrobials which could potentially be used to treat human infections.”
The rumen is a specialised compartment in the gut through which cows are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it prior to digestion in the stomach, principally through bacterial actions.
Sheep and cows are known as ruminants, a word that comes from the Latin ruminare, which means to ‘chew twice’, and the process of regurgitating fermented grass and chewing it again is known as ‘chewing the cud’ which further breaks down cellulose in grass and stimulates digestion.
The alarming increase in antibiotic resistance in disease causing bacteria, coupled with the decrease in drug discovery rate is now a serious medical challenge and it has been over 30 years since the last novel antibiotics were discovered. This coupled with the increase in resistance to existent antimicrobials is of major concern for human health.
Dr Huws and her group have been working on this project for the last two years with the Nigerian government and are currently testing the efficiency of the isolated novel rumen antimicrobials; and she is also involved in a BBSRC Brazil partnering award of £50,000 over 4 years to co-operate on discovering antibiotics in rumen microbes.
She has also recently received NRN life Sciences funding from the Welsh Government to continue this work and further the understanding of how these antimicrobials work and their potential to be used in treating bacterial infections in humans.
We hail the Cross River State Government for her effort and hope that the Ministry of Science and technology continues to support this project and do not lose out on a potentially major scientific breakthrough.
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