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Dr. Heather Hendrickson

Massey University, New Zealand

Heather Hendrickson is a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences in the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. Microbes rule the planet and Heather has a deep interest in studying the evolution of these puppet masters using a combination of bacterial genomics, experimental evolution, cell biology and genetics. Heather’s work takes many forms including efforts towards elucidating the connections between DNA replication and horizontal gene transfer and replaying the evolution of cell shape in the laboratory. Her graduate and undergraduate students are also involved in discovering and sequencing bacteriophages in multiple microbial systems.

Microbial Ninjas: Bacteriophages take on Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs

One of the key science questions of our time is how to beat bacteria in an age where antibiotics are no longer effective. Much like the "peak oil" crisis, the "peak antibiotic" point has likely transpired. As a society, we are now faced with a future where we need to reconsider they ways in which we are using antibiotics and invest in alternatives to this precious and dwindling resource.
The outlook is both good and bad. The bad news is we can't beat them. Bacteria have evolutionary mechanisms that far outstrip our ability to pace them and they are incredibly numerous. The good news is that beating bacteria is not our only option. Bacteriophages are the most numerous entities on the planet and they are the natural parasites of bacteria. I work with graduate and undergraduate students to discover novel bacteriophages that have the potential to kill bacterial pathogens that have become resistant to antibiotics. In the future these tiny entities might be added to western medicine’s arsenal in the fight against antibiotic resistant super bugs.
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Watch Dr. Heather Hendrickson’s Sci21 webcast, Microbial Ninjas: Bacteriophages take on antibiotic resistant superbugs