Bacterial evolution and adaptation – University of Copenhagen

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Bacterial evolution and adaptation

Bacteria employ a variety of adaptation strategies during the course of chronic infections. Understanding bacterial adaptation can facilitate the identification of novel drug targets for better treatment of infectious diseases.

We study bacterial evolution and adaptation in a human model of chronic infection, the chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa airway infection in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The same bacterial clone survives for long periods of time in the CF lungs (more than 30 years) experiencing more than 200.000 bacterial generations. The persistence of bacteria in the CF airways (paranasal sinuses and lung) is due to the biofilm mode of growth which protects the microorganisms against the inflammatory response of the host and the often constant presence of antibiotics which instead select for mutations providing protection against the stress factors.

A close collaboration with the Copenhagen Cystic Fibrosis Center and The Department of Clinical Microbiology, Rigshospitalet allows access to a unique collection of bacterial isolates from the very early to the last stages of the infection which create an outstanding opportunity of studying in vivo bacterial evolution and adaptation. The data obtained might be useful for other bacterial systems of chronic infection in humans.

Methods: phenotypic analysis and metabolic profiles (Biolog Phenotypic Microarray), gene sequencing, transcriptomic analysis, molecular biology and basal cellular physiology methods, in vitro biofilm models and animal models of infection.

Specific projects:

  1. Bacterial evolutionary pathways for the establishment of chronic infection
  2. The role of oxidative stress for the bacterial evolution
  3. The biology of antibiotic stress and its role in bacterial evolution and adaptation
  4. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics of antibiotics on biofilm

Funding: KU, DTU, The Danish Agency for Science Technology and Innovation, EU grant (Project NPARI, Contract No: 037692).   

Contact person:

Oana Ciofu,  e-mail:, Tel: + 45 29 21 73 67