Diet plays a critical role in shaping the early life microbiota, and we have a number of projects seeking to understand the mechanisms underpinning diet-Bifidobacterium interactions.
Melissa is interested in understanding how breast-feeding impacts the early life microbiota. More specifically, Bifidobacterium are found at high levels in breast-fed infants; whereas levels are markedly reduced in formula-fed infants. The presence of Bifidobacteria at birth (and throughout early-life) largely impacts the wider bacterial ecosystem leading to a ‘healthy’ microbiota that can be maintained into adulthood. Using innovative model colon systems, we are seeking to identify the key genetic and metabolic signatures involved in this process, to ultimately develop an enhanced formula that more closely mimics mums milk and provide the health benefits children receive when breast-fed.
Magda is taking a global genomics approach to bifidobacterial-diet evolutionary processes. Bifidobacteria as well as being a prominent member of the human gut microbiota also have a wide host range including, mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Importantly, this diverse host range may be linked to their ability to ferment various complex host- and diet- derived polysaccharides, which suggests co-evolution of bacteria-host and diet. This project involves investigation of the diversity of bifidobacteria isolated from a range of animal species in order to study the host-diet adaptations using whole genome sequencing (WGS), bioinformatics approaches and phenotypic analysis.