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Potential risk factors associated with the microbiota of grass roots in the Kimberley region of Western Australia

Achemedei, Bronwyn (2016) Potential risk factors associated with the microbiota of grass roots in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The Kimberley region of Australia is a biological hotspot with highly diverse and often endemic flora and fauna. Much of the area has been understudied, although this has changed in recent years. The diversity of the microbiota of the region has remained relatively understudied, with the exception of a limited survey aimed at assessing the distribution of the pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. This study hypothesised that previously uncharacterised human pathogenic bacteria are present in the soils of the Kimberley region.

A total of 49 isolates were obtained from the rhizosphere, rhizoplane and bulk soil of 15 plant specimens. Of these, 18 isolates were identified as species that have been shown to cause disease in humans, and four isolates were selected to characterise further. The virulence of a Klebsiella pneumoniae, and three Burkholderia cepacia complex isolates were compared to clinical isolates. It was found that each isolate exhibited virulence factors, showing the ability to adhere to macrophage cells, form biofilms, and produce unique lipopolysaccharides. This study showed that the microbiota of the Kimberley region has the potential to cause disease in humans.

To further investigate the risk posed to the human population, these isolates should be studied further with improved virulence, and infection assays. Whole genome sequences should be analysed for the presence of specific virulence genes. The remaining uncharacterised isolates that have shown to be pathogenic in a clinical setting should be characterised further. Future studies should include a collection of more plant specimens, with more diversity in grass species collected, and from wider areas.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor(s): Tiwari, Ravi and Sarkar-Tyson, Mitali
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