Professor Martha Clokie

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health and food security today. A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, sepsis and diarrhoea – are becoming harder to treat as a result, leading to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

Professor Martha Clokie, Professor of Microbiology is leading the fight against antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

Motivated by a desire to find cures for difficult-to-treat-diseases, Martha’s research is exploring the potential of using naturally occurring viruses, known as bacteriophages, to treat antibiotic resistant infections. Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically infect bacteria and all bacteria have these naturally occurring enemies.

Her work investigating alternative treatments for Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacteria that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea, has identified a large set of phages that effectively kill this pathogen. Working with an industrial partner, Enbiotix, this treatment is now being developed into a therapeutic.

Now, Martha is applying the same principles to look at other debilitating diseases.

She is determining the impact of phages on bacteria in the gut, investigating how phages can be used to target Lyme disease, and developing phages to target Salmonella in animals.

The end goal is to use these phages to formulate new antimicrobials that will kill these infections once and for all.

"We have a real need to find new antibiotics. I want to be part of the effort to take phages as therapeutics for humans and animals and to kill these difficult to treat infections."

Professor Martha Clokie