Commensals and pathogens both form biofilms in early associations with the host. These biofilms are remarkably different from their planktonic counterparts including morphology, gene expression and “ multicellular like ” behavior. Biofilm bacteria communicate between themselves using Quorum Sensing (QS) – a primordial cell-cell communication system mediated by small molecules. In pathogens QS controls numerous factors like virulence factors, drug resistance and others which make biofilms so dangerous on medical devices and so many other infections. Much less is known about commensal QS which possibly control host microbiome. We investigate the relationships between these two ancient processes: biofilm QS and epithelial innate immunity! In a collaborative program with Dr. Venkat Panchagnula at National Chemical Laboratory , Pune, we have developed proprietary Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LDI-MS) technology that allows high throughput untargeted metabolomics of biofilm QS. Using this technology in multi-institutional collaborations including, Prof. Rakesh Lodha in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS, Delhi) ; Prof. Giovanni Di Bonaventura in University of Cheiti-Pascara and Bambino Gesù Hospital (Italy) ; Prof. Miguel Cámara at the University of Nottingham and the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (United Kingdom) – we are investigating QS in multiple disease models. These include biofilms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa – a dreaded multiple drug resistant pathogen that leads to many acute infections like Ventilator Associated Pneumonia, Ocular Keratitis, wound infections, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and others. We have shown that P. aeruginosa QS directly interfere with the human innate immunity through cross-kingdom signaling that can have far reaching consequence on biofilm based diseases and management. Using these tools we also investigate microbial contamination in food mechanisms of probiotics and analyses of next generation of functional foods. The laboratory enjoys government funding as well as grants from major domestic FMCG industry for its research.
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