About This Project
Diabetes is a major cause of morbidity worldwide. Infections of diabetic foot ulcers are a common complication and can lead to lower-limb amputations.
In this work, I will collect bacterial samples from diabetic foot ulcers. I will perform genome sequencing and study the diversity and shared characteristics of these strains. The data collected will help us treat and prevent diabetic foot infections.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
Diabetes is highly prevalent. About 422 million people have diabetes worldwide and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes yearly. About 60% of diabetics will develop neuropathy, eventually leading to foot ulcers, infections and amputations. These have a devastating impact on the patient's lifestyle and well-being.
The exact features of the bacteria provoking diabetic foot infections are unknown. Their characterisation would enable to manage and treat better diabetic patients and would contribute to reducing the frequency of limb amputations. It would also allow us to understand how the infection spreads and how we can prevent dissemination.
What is the significance of this project?
Diabetic foot ulcers are responsible for more hospital admissions than any other diabetic complication. Today, diabetes is a leading cause of non-traumatic amputations. Lower-limb amputations in diabetic patients are often due to poorly characterised and treated infections that spread in the host tissue.
A characterisation of the pathogens causing diabetic foot infections can help develop new strategies to prevent and manage these complications, ultimately preventing amputations.
This project will provide new insights into diabetic foot infections by determining the underlying mechanisms (i.e. what factors are involved) and by identifying effective therapies (i.e. what treatments can be adopted).
What are the goals of the project?
My first objective is to perform whole-genome sequencing on bacterial samples from diabetic foot ulcers. I will collect at least 50 bacterial samples from a diabetic foot clinic and I will identify the species responsible for the infection. I expect that E. coli alone will represent at least 25% of the cases. E. coli samples will be further pursued for whole-genome sequencing. Other bacterial samples will be stored for future use.
My second objective is to characterise representative isolates in the lab. I will study in depth several isolated strains, especially focusing on collecting data about antimicrobial resistance, capability to form biofilms and survive inside host cells.
Whole genome sequencing will allow to identify the genetic characteristics of the pathogens isolated from diabetic foot. This includes virulence factors associated with the disease and antibiotic-resistant genes.
Culturing media and lab disposables are necessary to handle the samples, prepare it for sequencing and to perform some characterisation lab assays, such as production of biofilms and survival inside host cells.
The information gathered will help to better understand the disease, treat the diabetic patient and monitor the dissemination of the infection in the population.
The project will require approximately a year to complete, mostly because of the need to collect clinical samples from patients with ongoing diseases (i.e., 8 months). The bacterial species in the collected samples will be confirmed with culturing technique methods, the DNA extracted, outsourced for sequencing and analysed (i.e., 3 months). In parallel, lab phenotypic characterisation will be performed (i.e., 4 months).
May 05, 2023
Feb 01, 2024
Collection of samples (06/2023-02/2024)
May 02, 2024
Whole genome sequencing and analysis (02/2024-05/2024)
May 22, 2024
Laboratory charachterisation (01/2024-05/2024)
Meet the Team
Dr Vincenzo Torraca (Director of Study) is a Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of Westminster (UK). He uses a combination of genomics, and lab characterisation assays to study how globally relevant bacterial pathogens provoke disease, persist and spread in the population.
A PhD student (selections in progress, to be appointed in September 2023 for 3 years) will also contribute to this project and the research findings will be part of their PhD thesis.
I am a Lecturer in Microbiology and focus on how globally relevant bacterial pathogens provoke disease, persist and spread in the population.
I have a PhD in Immunology and Microbiology, an MSc degree in Biology and a BSc degree in Biological sciences (molecular and computational biology).
Prevalence of diabetes worldwide: Diabetes Worldwide (WHO)
Diabetic foot ulcers as a major complication of diabetes: Diabetic Foot Ulcer (NIH)
- $10Total Donations
- $10.00Average Donation