News & Events June 2, 2021

The Forrest Foundation has awarded eight Prospect Fellowships to outstanding early-career researchers to enable them to undertake their innovative work in Western Australia – including one given to Harry Perkins Institute’s Dr Kieran Mulroney.

Dr Mulroney is an early career researcher working in the Perkins’ Genome Biology and Genetics Translational Renal Research Lab. He has been awarded a prestigious Forrest Prospect Fellowship to investigate the benefit of applying innovative new diagnostics to help identify the correct antibiotics to treat serious infections.

“Antibiotics are a wonder of modern medicine that we take for granted,” he says.

“Not so long ago, any bacterial infection was potentially a life-threatening emergency. The discovery of antibiotics solved that problem. However, now antibiotic resistance is spreading – every year there are more infections that cannot be treated effectively with the antibiotics doctors have come to rely on.”

When a patient is sick with a serious infection, choosing an antibiotic to use that will treat the infection is a matter of life and death.

“The sooner a patient can get the right antibiotic, the better their chances of survival,” says Dr Mulroney.

“Existing laboratory tests can take days to give the right answer and patients cannot afford to wait that long.”

Dr Mulroney, as part of a collaboration with researchers from the University of Western Australia and PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, has developed an innovative new technique that in 3-5 hours predicts which antibiotic will be effective.

Using flow cytometry to measure hundreds of thousands of individual bacteria in just a few seconds, the research team can detect the damage antibiotics cause to bacteria, and then use this information to confirm which antibiotic will be an effective treatment.

Through his fellowship, Dr Mulroney will drive the development of this technology to demonstrate the benefits for serious, time critical infections.