Collegium Helveticum
© Georgie Drew, created using Leonardo Ai
Fellow Project 2023–2024

Outsourcing Defence
Manipulating Symbiont-Encoded Protection against Parasites

The project explores the evolutionary and bioethical consequences of manipulating protective symbioses. Humans, and many other host species, forge collaborations with microbial symbionts. These symbionts protect their hosts from parasites, deploying mechanisms from chemical warfare to resource hoarding. As rapidly evolving parasites outpace current treatments, there is growing interest in utilising symbionts for disease control. To do this effectively we must deepen our understanding of symbiont-encoded protection mechanisms.

In her fellow project, Georgia Drew will use comparative analysis to determine whether key symbiont variables—such as transmission mode or phylogeny—are predictive of the mechanism of protection operating, and whether mechanisms are associated with different costs to hosts. Jointly, the project will synthesise approaches to manipulating and engineering protective symbionts, including the efficacy and challenges of current trials.