Fibre Highways for Microbial Travel Collaboration with Microbial Ecologist Dr Angela Sherry.

Research into the way microbes move within our living spaces and interact with materials and textiles within our homes is essential, given the current Covid-19 pandemic and the advice from governments for whole nations to stay indoors during coronavirus-induced lockdowns. 

A new EBnet-funded proof-of-concept study will start to explore these microbial interactions by expanding upon previous research into bacterial motility on fungal highways to investigate ‘fibre highways’ – the directional movement and dispersal of microbes on a range of natural and synthetic fibres, using a combination of growth experiments, visualisation technology, low-cost sequencing and bioinformatics. 

The research creates a new exciting crossdisciplinary collaboration between molecular microbiology, materials science and textiles, bringing together the expertise of two Research Fellows within the HBBE, Senior Fellow Dr Angie Sherry and NUAcT Fellow Dr Jane Scott.  

The research aims to investigate whether hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria can travel on ‘fibre highways’ to stimulate oil biodegradation in the environment. Ultimately, leading to the development of environmentally responsive textile systems composed of natural and sustainable material that can be used to enhance pollutant bioremediation.            

The research will also provide an opportunity to study the general translocation of microbes along ‘fibre highways’, to gain extensive knowledge about microbial interactions with fibres which are commonplace in the environment. Knowledge which has significant applications for the Built Environment.  

Outcomes will include an interactive textiles and digital exhibition, for use externally and in the ‘OME, to demonstrate the movement of microbes around fibres and to make this ‘invisible world’ more comprehensible to society.  

The research aligns to all four themes of the HBBE: Microbial Environments, Building Metabolisms (novel ways of processing hydrocarbons), Living Construction (development of environmentally responsive textile systems) and Responsible Interaction. 
Funder: Environmental Biotechnology Network (EBNet), BBSRC/EPSRC phase II NIBB ( 
EBNet public summary: POC2020015 –    Start date: 1st Nov 2020.

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