Diane McDougald Australian Society for Microbiology Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

Diane McDougald

Associate Professor Diane McDougald leads the Pathogen Evolution group located at The ithree Institute (Infection, Immunology and Innovation), University of Technology Sydney. She is also a Visiting Senior Researcher at the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. A/Prof McDougald has made significant contributions to the fields of Vibrio biology, bacterial adaptation to stress and mechanisms of molecular control of these responses, cell-to-cell communication, biofilm formation and interactions of bacteria with higher eukaryotes. Diane McDougald has over 20 years experience investigating mechanisms of survival and persistence of pathogens in the environment. She has made significant contributions to the fields of Vibrio biology, bacterial adaptation to stress and mechanisms of molecular control of these responses, cell-to-cell communication, biofilm formation and interactions of bacteria with higher eukaryotes. Outcomes of her research were instrumental in establishing Biosignal Ltd, a biotechnology company whose patents have since been acquired by Unilever for development of anti-biofilm compounds to reduce bacteria's ability to form biofilms on surfaces such as medical devices, gas pipelines, and lungs. PhD students she has supervised have gone on to positions in academia and in the water/wastewater industry. The Pathogen Evolution group’s major research interests are the mechanisms of survival and persistence of pathogens in the environment, and what impact these mechanisms have on virulence and pathogenicity in the host. The team investigates the evolutionary drivers and consequences of bacterial adaptation to stresses, including interactions with higher organisms. Broadly, the team studies the interactions of prokaryotes and eukaryotes using a number of model systems to investigate the impact of predation by protozoa on microbial communities and how evolution of grazing defences drives the evolution of pathogenicity in the environment. Predation is an important selection pressure that pathogens face in the environment, and as a result, pathogens may evolve phenotypes that not only increase their fitness in the environment, but may also increase their fitness in the human host. This research platform will allow us to test key aspects of the Coincidental Selection Hypothesis, which states that the virulence of many opportunistic human pathogens may be an accidental by-product of selection for adaptations not related to human disease. Predicting the emergence of new pathogens is difficult but important for developing public policy. Building predictive tools relies on high quality knowledge input to which knowledge of the evolutionary drivers and consequences of bacterial adaptation to stresses can make important contributions.

Abstracts this author is presenting: