The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Using zebrafish in the fight against drugs resistance

Antimicrobial resistance – the resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms – is one of the world’s most urgent health problems.

Professor Serge Mostowy from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is leading an international team of researchers using zebrafish to study the spread of infection. 

Zebrafish are completely translucent in their first days of life, which means that scientists are able to use a microscope to see what happens when infection enters the embryo and watch how their immune system responds. 

Prof Mostowy hopes that if we understand how bacteria attack our cells and multiply, then we can find new targeted ways to stop them without the need for antimicrobial drugs. 

He and his team are focusing their attention on the bacterial pathogen Shigella, the second leading cause of death from diarrhoea that kills around 160,000 people globally per year. Shigella can be treated with antibiotics but there are an increasing number of drug resistant strains and it is now deemed a priority superbug by the World Health Organisation. 

The team’s approach to studying bacteria is important not just for Shigella, but as a potential way to combat many other antibiotic resistant organisms.

Photo credit: James Sykes

Further reading