Microbial Puppet Masters on show

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Salford staff and students are shedding light on little-known viruses called Bacteriophages.

Using Virtual Reality experiences and interactive models Professor Chloe James and her team have been spreading the word about their Microbial Puppet Masters work across the country.

This Sunday, the team delivered a “Get Curious” event at the Science and Industry Museum (SIM) attracting over 700 visitors. The activities will also be part of a special late-night adult only evening at SIM, next Thursday October 5, as part of the Operation Ouch exhibition.

Bacteriophages (phages for short) are viruses that infect bacteria. They are the most abundant and diverse organisms on the planet and their actions impact the fundamental biology of everything on it.

Phages have been in an evolutionary battle with their bacterial hosts for millions of years. Some are being developed as novel antibacterials (phage therapy), but others form partnerships with the bacteria they infect, acting like “Microbial Puppet Masters” helping them to adapt to new surroundings.

Research at Salford, in partnership with The University of Liverpool, is revealing the secrets of phages that make bacteria more able to survive in the body and cause disease. This work is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and could inform new ways of tackling a range of bacterial diseases.

The team have created a range of Virtual Reality, interactive models, craft activities and art installations to convey messages about both phages and bacteria.

Prof James said: “Our activities and art works are designed to show people the power of phages and how we can apply this knowledge to tackle chronic infections of people with diseases like Cystic Fibrosis. When you come to our events, you really get a feel for it and see up close what happens.

“We had a great turnout over the weekend and I’m hoping for another great event next week in which we will showcase our creative collaboration with the Morson Maker Space and artist Paul Miller.”

Of course these events could not take place without the dedicated delivery team of academics, technicians and students from across the region.

George Hill, second year student in Human Biology and Infectious Diseases, who has helped work on the event, said: “It is inspiring to see awareness of phage delivered in such an intuitive and immersive way. It is a pleasure to see this develop and I look forward to seeing it go even further.”

The museum, is currently undergoing a huge multi-million-pound renovation project across its seven-acre site. The After-Hours event will run from 6pm to 9pm on 5th Oct with tickets starting from £8


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