Congratulations to Anne-Marie on her successful MSc defence!

The Surette lab is very proud to congratulate Anne-Marie on an excellent and successful defence of her Master’s thesis this past week. The Surette lab celebrated with AM as she drank from the ceremonial goblet and wrote her words of wisdom down for generations to come.

Congratulations, Anne-Marie! We’re all very proud of you. 🙂


Fiona publishes research on how the microbiome of the nose and throat change as we age

A recent article in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society is the result of an extensive collaboration between the Bowdish and Surette labs (colloquially referred to as the “Bowdettes”) on a study of the upper respiratory tract microbiomes.

As we age, we become more susceptible to respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumonia; however, we aren’t yet sure why.  The microbial communities, or microbiomes, that inhabit our noses and throats act as protectors of our respiratory tract from microbes in our environment. Previous research has identified that immune function declines with age, but an understanding of whether this is correlated with changes to the respiratory tract microbiomes remained unknown.

In this study, we rectified this by collecting swabs of the anterior nares (nostril) and oropharynx (throat) from willing elderly volunteers, and profiled these microbial communities using 16S rRNA sequencing of the variable 3 region. Initial analyses of these data indicated that there were no associations of these microbiomes with gender, the residence of the participant, or other factors. Interestingly, the microbiota sampled from the noses and throats of these individuals did not look distinct from each other, meaning that the microbes found in these participants noses were similar in type and number to those found in their throats. In fact, when we combined this data with that of healthy, mid-aged adults sampled at the same locales as part of the Human Microbiome Project, we discovered that the microbiota of the elderly were very different from that of adults, and included more variability among subjects. Interestingly, we did not discover an increase in the abundance of any pathogenic species such as Streptococcus pneumoniae which often cause respiratory infections.

These results are important as we consider the implications to the study of respiratory infections. We can hypothesize that the dysbiosis if the microbial communities of the upper respiratory tract with age may affect immune function, or the effectiveness of these ecological barriers, allowing pathogens such as S. pneumoniae to easily infiltrate; however, further research will have to be conducted in order to fully examine the effect these microbial changes will have on us as we age.

Fiona’s paper can be found here; if you have any questions or comments, please leave us a note below!

Mike gives public lecture on the human microbiome

This coming Saturday, Mike will give a public lecture entitled “The Human Host: Microbial Communities of the Body in Health and Disease” as part of The Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art’s Free Public Lecture series. The lecture will take place on Saturday, March 8th at 8pm in Ewart Angus Centre-1A1. For more information and an abstract of the talk visit HAALSA’s website here.

Steve & Matt publish Nature News & Views

Steve Bernier and Matt Workentine, both postdoctoral fellows in the lab, have just released a News & Views article in Nature Genetics this week on how bacterial pathogens adapt during chronic pulmonary infections.  You can read the article here.

New Surette lab publication.

One of our postdoctoral fellows, Steve Bernier, has just published a review in Frontiers of Microbiology on the role of antibiotics in nature. Check out McMaster’s IIDR news review of the publication here.

Jennifer Stearns wins IIDR Award of Excellence

McMaster’s Institute for Infectious Disease Research celebrated the work of it’s trainees last week by hosting the 3rd Annual IIDR Trainee Day. The Surette lab was represented by many of its members via oral and poster presentations.  However, it was Dr. Jennifer Stearns whose research stood out by being presented with an IIDR Award of Excellence for her research on the differences in the nasal and throat microbiota in children and adults.  Congratulations, Jen!

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IIDR recognizes the achievements of Eisha, our summer high school intern

Eisha Ahmed, one of the Surette lab’s summer high school interns, is the focus of an article in the newest edition of the IIDR Newsletter. Eisha won the IIDR Prize at Hamilton’s most recent Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair, which gave her the opportunity to intern in an IIDR laboratory this summer. Given her interest in bioinformatics, she was keen on joining the Surette lab in their pursuits of building tools for 16s rRNA sequencing analysis. The Perl scripts she has written over her time in the lab have aided these analyses and we have been pleased to host such a hard working young scientist!

To get a bit more detail on Eisha’s research and other pursuits, take a look at the recent IIDR article.