She Researches Antarctic Bacteria as Source of New Antibiotics
Thanks to the European grant for young scientists, Stanislava Králová will connect the research in Brno and Vienna.
Stanislava Králová started researching Antarctic bacteria during her doctoral studies at the Faculty of Science MU. She obtained her samples from the university expeditions. Two years ago, she went to James Ross Island herself.
During her time at the Czech Collection of Microorganisms, she described four new species of bacteria, and she is currently working on four more. Recently, she has begun researching methods of using newly discovered and described Antarctic microorganisms to obtain new antibiotics effective against multiresistant bacteria.
These are an ever-growing problem as the current antibiotics are becoming ineffective. If we don’t find new, effective substances to kill such bacteria soon, global health care could revert to a time before Penicillin was discovered.
Studying Antarctic bacteria is an expensive and challenging endeavour. That is why Ms Králová was looking for a way to do it properly. She approached professor Alexander Loy of the University of Vienna – a world-renowned expert on microbiomes, microbial communities and whole-genome sequencing of bacteria – with her research offer. Under his supervision, she wrote an application for the prestigious European Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) grant.
“This grant is given to just around a thousand researchers a year, and in this call, there were almost 12 thousand applicants. That’s why I was thrilled when I got it,“ says Ms Králová. Now she has a two-year grant and some extra funding from the laboratory in Vienna that will cover part of the expenses for her research.
The young microbiologist will take with her to Vienna around a hundred Antarctic bacteria that she has previously isolated and described. Among these are, e.g. soil actinobacteria and bacilli. She will also choose from the bacteria she has not worked with yet, which have interesting biosynthetic genes.
“I’ll try to cultivate some more bacteria from this year’s Antarctic expedition and devise new methods of cultivating bacterial genera that we were unable to isolate and cultivate so far. We already know that they can produce a range of substances with interesting antibiotic properties,” says Králová.
For now, she will do all this work in Brno. She’s planning on moving to Vienna at the beginning of next year. The European grant allows her to do so and, with regard to the current epidemiological and family situation, the young microbiologist decided to wait until she’s able to travel between the cities freely again. At the same time, it means that she’ll arrive in brand new laboratories that are being built this year in Vienna.
Moreover, she can extend her stay in the Austrian capital for another year. She is one of the top five MSCA grant applicants at the University of Vienna. Thanks to this, the university will fund another twelve months of her research beyond the scope of the European grant.
She only has to come up with a suggestion to expand on her scientific research. “I have some ideas for this extra year. However, we’ll set some specific goals together with professor Loy based on the results we’ll obtain during the first year of research.
The laboratory in Vienna offers Králová new opportunities to evaluate the antibacterial properties of the Antarctic bacteria. The local experts specialize, among other things, in creating communities of different bacterial species that can live and work together in a stable manner. “They examine whether the relations within these communities lead to new gene expressions, in other words, whether the individual species of bacteria display the ability to produce new substances that would give them some new properties. That’s why I would like to use the Antarctic bacteria that often behave differently in laboratories than in their natural environment, thus hiding their full biotechnological potential,” says the young scientist.
Králová would like to create similar communities with the Antarctic bacteria and observe whether this would help them produce some interesting substances that could be researched and used as new antibiotics.
In her search for substances that would help people battle bacteria resistant to antibiotics, she also collaborates with the University Hospital Brno. “They collect multiresistant bacteria for my research that often react to just a single available antibiotic. Thanks to this, in Vienna, I’ll be able to test the extracts from the Antarctic bacteria directly on the resistant strains from an actual hospital and look for substances that would help with the antibiotic resistance problem,” says Králová.
She’s not afraid of working with the Antarctic antipathogenic bacteria. “Every microbiologist feels a bit of adrenalin rush in their blood, but when you abide by the laboratory rules and regulations, you can virtually eliminate any risks while researching potentially dangerous organisms,” she adds.
This won’t be the first time she will research bacteria’s antibiotic properties abroad. During her doctoral studies, she spent six months in the USA working with new species of marine bacteria. Together with her American and Norwegian colleagues, she researched their ability to produce antibacterial substances and how to use them to make new antibiotics.
“I’ll be still working on a topic I enjoy while staying in touch with my alma mater, which I don’t want to leave. I’ll also gain a lot of experience regarding grant applications without which you can’t really do science these days,” concludes Králová.
Multiresistant bacteria are an ever-growing problem as the current antibiotics are becoming ineffective. If we don’t find new, effective substances to kill such bacteria soon, global health care could go back to a time before Penicillin was discovered.
Stanislava Králová (1991) studied experimental biology at the Faculty of Science MU, where she also finished her doctoral studies in microbiology. Between 2015 and 2017, she completed several short internships at Ghent University, the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna and a private diagnostics laboratory in Vienna. In 2019, she spent three months on the Antarctic expedition. This year, she succeeded at obtaining the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Grant to discover new antibiotics in Antarctic bacteria.