In 2017, approximately 400,000 Australian people in hospitals and healthcare facilities were affected by chronic wounds. Chronic wound care is also expensive, with an estimated monetary burden of approximately AUD 3.5 billion on the Australian healthcare system. Pre-existing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase risk of developing chronic wounds. Additionally, the rates of chronic health conditions are increasing in populations such as geriatric cohorts, rural and remote communities, and those with a First Nations Peoples heritage.
Microbial populations that migrate from the skin into the wound bed are detrimental to the healing process. Bacteria from the Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas genera are the most significant contributors to the population of microbes isolated from wounds. Recent studies have shown that fungal yeasts such as Candida and Rhodotorula are also major contributors in the prevention of healing in these environments. These wound associated fungi are poorly controlled as current antimycotics (amphotericin B) have significant side effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop new antimicrobial drugs.
Fungal endophytes are microfungi that occur in plant tissue without inducing obvious disease symptoms in the host. Recent studies have shown that Australian plants harbour a diversity of endophytic fungi. These fungal endophytes have been shown to produce an array of bioactive compounds including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer agents. Mapperson (2014) and Sharma (2022) showed that Australian fungal endophytes were bioactive against Gram positive bacteria and Candida and Rhodotorula yeast fungi.
This project aims to 1) isolate new species of endophytic fungi from previously unstudied native plants and taxonomically characterise these, 2) Screen the isolated endophytes for their capacity to inhibit growth of wound associated microbes, 3) Grow consistently bioactive endophytes in bulk and use high performance liquid chromatography to fractionate extracts, 4) Use liquid chromatography ¿ mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance to elucidate the structure of these bioactive compounds, and 5) Use microscopy and gene expression analyses to determine the mode of action of bioactive compounds. Laboratory work for this project has commenced by beginning isolation and identification of novel fungal endophytes. Thus far, 141 fungal endophytes have been isolated, 49 have had their internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region sequenced, and eight new taxa have been identified.
The isolation and identification of novel fungal endophytes will contribute to the understanding of Australian biodiversity. The screening of these endophytes for antimicrobial activity may contribute to the knowledge and discovery of new antimicrobial compounds resulting in improved health outcomes for disadvantaged Australia populations through healing of chronic wounds.
For more information or zoom link, please email the Graduate Research School or phone (07) 4631 1088. The zoom links are included in the ReDTrain Bulletin.