Andrew Jonathan Balmer
BBSRC DTP Ph.D. Student, University of Cambridge
Modelling the evolution of bacterial pathogens in the real world
I am a Ph.D. student as part of the Disease Dynamics research theme of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge (see here for my full CV). I completed my M.Phil. in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.
In addition to my studies, I have extensive experience in the field of popular science journalism, publishing in high-profile publications such as Scientific American, Yahoo News, and Salon magazine. I also founded my own popular science media outlet, LUU science magazine.
The apparently limitless ability of pathogens to defeat control measures through evolution poses growing threats to human and animal health. In particular, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria is often perceived as an unavoidable outcome that can only be slowed down by the careful use of available antibiotics and the development of new ones. However, these strategies remain highly theoretical and are based on rudimentary assumptions about the evolutionary processes involved. My current research focuses on furthering our understanding of the evolution of adaptation in host-pathogen systems.
Here are some of the projects I am currently involved in:
Bacterial pathogenicity and mutation rate
We are currently studying the link between reductive genome evolution and pathogenicity. Bacterial pathogens very often have smaller genomes and fewer genes than their nearest non-pathogenic relatives. However, despite much speculation, it remains unclear why this pattern holds. We are addressing this phenomenon using Streptococcus suis, a bacterium that is common in non-pathogenic forms, but which also causes serious diseases in pigs and humans. We sample whole genomes of global S. suis populations and use bioinformatic and laboratory approaches to test hypotheses about gene loss and pathogenicity. With Lucy Weinert
Mapping multi-drug resistance in bacteria
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major threat to human and animal health. Multi-drug resistance is a particular concern, and is increasingly reported using genetic (sequencing) or phenotypic (growth inhibition assay) tools. However, analysing and interpreting these complex datasets requires sophisticated and ofter tailor-made computational techniques. We are investigating the epidemiology and evolution of multi-drug resistance in pathogenic, commensal and zoonotic bacterial pathogens in farm animals. With Lucy Weinert and Olivier Restif
Mutation rate dynamics reflect ecological changes in an emerging zoonotic pathogen
Gemma G. R. Murray, Andrew J. Balmer, Josephine Herbert, Nazreen F. Hadijirin, Caroline L. Kemp, Marta Matuszewska, Sebastian Bruchmann, A. S. Md. Mukarram Hossain, Marcelo Gottschalk, A. W. (Dan) Tucker, Eric Miller and Lucy A. Weinert
Developmental plasticity for male secondary sexual traits in a group of polyphenic tropical butterflies
AJ Balmer, PM Brakefield, O Brattström, E van Bergen
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions relating to any aspect of my research.