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23 Feb 2022

Dr Stephanie Neville awarded prestigious Fellowship

Doherty Institute researcher Dr Stephanie Neville has been awarded a prestigious Junior Fellowship by the Garnett Passe & Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation to investigate antimicrobial resistance in inner ear infections.

The Passe & Williams Foundation was established in 1991 to improve the health of people with ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions by funding life-changing medical research, surgery and care.

The Junior Fellowship enables outstanding individuals to obtain postdoctoral (or equivalent) training under the supervision of an experienced clinical or scientific researcher, with the view to establishing a research career in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery in Australia and/or New Zealand.

University of Melbourne Dr Stephanie Neville, an NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow at the Doherty Institute, will use the Fellowship to undertake a project investigating new ways to treat antibiotic resistance in the bacterial pathogens that cause middle ear infections (otitis media).

“There are more than 700 million cases of otitis media every year, with 30 million children suffering from chronic infections annually. As a result, otitis media is one of the major drivers of community antibiotic usage,” Dr Neville said.

“Unfortunately, this increased usage ultimately leads to higher rates of antibiotic resistance, making middle ear infections much harder to treat.”

This fellowship aims to address the issue of antibiotic resistance in otitis media-causing bacterial species.

“This project builds on our discovery that the safe-for-human use ionophore, PBT2, is able to break antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that cause middle ear infections,” Dr Neville explained.

“Ionophores are small compounds that are able shuttle high concentrations of metal ions into cells.

“I plan to now investigate the in vivo efficacy of these ionophores in overcoming antibiotic resistance when they are co-administered with our current antibiotic arsenal.

“With this data, we hope to work toward developing a new treatment regimen to restore therapeutic efficacy of our current antibiotics and reduce the significant disease burden associated with otitis media.”

In Australia, there is a very high morbidity associated with chronic and recurring otitis media.

For many children, surgery becomes the only treatment option, however, in the Australian public health system, there is currently a wait time of more than 2 years.

“During this time, children can experience significant developmental delays and multiple, prolonged courses of antibiotics,” Dr Neville explained.

“We hope that with this approach, we may be able to decrease the morbidity associated with antibiotic resistant otitis media and improve the quality of life for many children.”