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Two McMaster University professors have received research funding to boost their work to identify COVID-19 infection rates and to understand why some people are more susceptible to the virus. Dawn Bowdish, professor of pathology and molecular medicine and the Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity, and Michael Surette, professor of medicine and the Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research, are receiving $300,000 for two studies from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation through its Weston Family Microbiome Initiative. The funds are in addition to a three-year, $1 million grant from the Foundation awarded to the duo earlier this year. The original funding supports a study focused on identifying and isolating the members of the airway microbiome – which consists of microbes like bacteria, fungi, and viruses – that protect older adults from respiratory infection. “This additional funding will help us answer two important questions related to COVID-19,” said Bowdish. “One is a better understanding of what the actual infection rate is in the Hamilton community. The second is whether there are differences in the immune responses or the airway microbiomes of those who get sick and those who don’t, or in those who have symptoms versus those who don’t.”
With the world’s attention on COVID-19, I believe that now is the time to talk about another pandemic that’s been happening right under our noses: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). When infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses or fungi stop responding to the medicines designed to treat them, that’s AMR. Resistance builds over time through overexposure to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, or disinfectants. With ineffective treatments, these infections persist in the body and ultimately spread to others.

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