Hospital Bugs – Klebsiella and Acinetobacter

  • Project Leader

    Dr Kathryn Holt
    T: +61 03 9035 3155
    E: kholt@unimelb.edu.au
    W: Personal web page

    Location: Centre for Systems Genomics, Building 184 (Old Microbiology), Royal Pde, Parkville

Project Details

Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii are Gram negative bacteria that can cause a range of infections in humans. They are generally considered to be 'opportunistic' pathogens, meaning that they would not usually cause infections in healthy individuals but can cause serious infections in people who are immunocompromised (including infants, the elderly and some hospital patients) or people who have exposed wounds or inserted medical devices (usually hospitalised patients). These two bacteria appear to be are exceptionally good at acquiring antibiotic resistance genes (see above), and in the last few decades have established themselves as significant causes of hospital-acquired infections across the globe.

photo of plate of Klebsiella pneumoniae

A highly virulent and super-sticky Klebsiella pneumoniae isolated from a patient in Melbourne.

However very little is known about these organisms, including their mechanisms of pathogenesis and their population structure, and there are very few tools available to study their evolution and transmission. This makes the bugs prime candidates for genomic studies.

We have recently completed a large global study of Klebsiella pneumoniae, looking at genomic diversity and population structure of K. pneumoniae isolated from various geographical regions and environmental niches (including a range of hospital infections, human gut colonization, animal infections and colonization, etc). See here for details.

This project is a collaboration with Dick Strugnell (Dept Microbiology and Immunology), Adam Jenney (Alfred Hospital, Melbourne), Nick Thomson (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge), Ruth Zadoks (Edinburgh), Heiman Wertheim and Stephen Baker (Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam) and others.

In addition, we are working with Adam Jenney at the Alfred Hospital to study K. pneumoniae colonization in hospitalised patients, and its role in hospital-acquired K. pneumoniae infections. This project is supported by a NHMRC project grant "How are Klebsiella pneumoniae infections acquired in hospital?" (APP1043822).

We are also working on Acinetobacter baumannii genomics projects with Ruth Hall (University of Sydney), Stephen Baker (OUCRU, Vietnam), Li Yang Hsu (National University of Singapore) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Cambridge).

Research Group

Holt Laboratory: Pathogen Genomics and Bioinformatics



Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Infection & Immunity, Systems Biology



Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology