This conversation was led by Siobhán O’Brien, Assistant Professor in Microbiology at Trinity College Dublin.
Understanding how and when pathogens evolve is urgent if we want to successfully treat diseases. However, pathogens do not exist in isolation – they are embedded within complex microbial communities (such as the gut microbiome). My talk will focus on my past and ongoing research investigating how interactions between pathogens and the community within which they reside can be key drivers of the rate and trajectory of pathogen evolution. Using experimental evolution in semi-natural gut microbiome and cystic fibrosis lung microbiome systems, we have shown that social interactions can be important drivers of virulence, antibiotic resistance, and mutation rates in a focal pathogen. Hence, in order to understand and treat infections there is a need to consider them in the context of the microbial community within which they reside.