Prize Scholar: Wearn Xin Yee

Wearn Xin Yee

Antimicrobial resistance is rapidly becoming a problem worldwide. Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to almost all antibiotics used to treat it, with resistance mediated by chromosomal mutations or plasmids. Importantly resistance against tetracycline results from the spread of a plasmid, pConj. The emergence of resistance against ceftriaxone and azithromycin, which are last line drugs against this bacterium, has emerged. This has prompted the WHO to list N. gonorrhoeae as a crucial pathogen for the development of novel antimicrobials.

My DPhil in Professor Christoph Tang’s lab at the Dunn School focuses on understanding microbial factors involved in pathogenicity and plasmid spread in N. gonorrhoeae. I have shown that CFHR5, a protein in the complement system, binds to N. gonorrhoeae, a finding which may have implications for novel approaches to treatment. Currently, I am defining the molecular basis for the spread of plasmid-mediated antimicrobial resistance in N. gonorrhoeae. I hope that by understanding the genes involved in this process, it may be possible to design drugs to prevent plasmid transfer and/or maintenance, thereby halting the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

With a strong scientific community, Merton College has given me the opportunity to interact with both peers and professors from other disciplines ranging from physiology to physics. This has helped me widen my scientific network and connected with others who have provided support during my time here.