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Irish Scientist Pioneers Research into Rapid Detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infections

A Newbridge scientist has been awarded a grant of €419,000 from Science Federation Ireland to aid him in his pioneering research into  faster clinical detection and diagnosis of bacterial infections.

Dr Joseph Byrne, who currently works in NUI Galway said the grant will allow him to apply his research to new applications.

One of the infections that Dr Byrne researches and aims to combat is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a common cause of death in sufferers of cystic fibrosis.

“My SIRG project will be built upon a foundation of carbohydrate chemistry, which I have been exploring during my postdoctoral research in Switzerland. While in Trinity I also worked on a project where I made compounds which hindered the growth of bio-films caused by bacteria linked to lung infections,” said Dr Byrne.

“I will carry out my research mostly in the School of Chemistry in NUI Galway. Additionally, I have collaborators in CÚRAM (SFI Centre for Medical Device Research) and in TU Dublin, whose labs I will visit to achieve key milestones in the project. The work will be carried out by me and a PhD student who I will recruit in the coming months. I also have a team of collaborators who have offered me some of their time and expertise to help me progress with my research,” he added.

Dr Byrne’s planned devices will be designed by means of 3D printing and will be programmed to operate in such a way as to detect the presence of specific bacteria through colour changes. These changes are caused by the interactions of their proteins with laboratory-produced sugar-based chemical compounds on the surface of newly-designed materials.

Dr Byrne also explained the importance of his progress and why he is determined to combat harmful bacterial infections: “Rapid diagnosis of bacteria is vital to inform appropriate medical treatment strategies and combat increasing antibiotic resistance globally. By providing a new methodology for rapid diagnosis of bacterial infection, my work will facilitate quicker decision-making on targeted medical treatment strategies for patients.

“In Ireland this would be particularly valuable for rapid diagnosis of  Pseudomonas aeruginosa  infections, a significant risk factor for cystic fibrosis patients (as well as others with compromised immune systems). More generally, helping clinicians avoid the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics would help combat the global challenge of increased antibiotic resistance,” he said.

Dr Byrne is a former pupil of  Scoil Mhuire Primary School and the Patrician Brothers Secondary School in Newbridge. He attended Maynooth University from 2006-2010, where he received his degree in Chemistry. In 2015, he then received his PhD from Trinity College in Dublin.

He is currently in Switzerland finishing a Marie Curie Research Fellowship in the University of Bern and will start his new venture with his planned devices in NUI Galway this April.

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