Imagine a world without antibiotics— a world where simple bacterial infections cannot be cured and become fatal.
UWinnipeg’s Fatima Deuna, a fourth-year honours student (biochemistry), is working to prevent this from happening. During her latest research project with Dr. Athar Ata (chemistry) and Paul Holloway (biology), Deuna isolated microorganisms from novel environments and tested them for antibiotic activity.
Deuna presented this research at the 6th Western Canada Medicinal Chemistry Workshop and earned the best poster award for her research.
“Fatima screened nearly 1,000 extracts for antimicrobial activity and only 100 of them were active for antibiotic activity,” explained Ata. “It indicates that the success rate for discovering new antibiotics extracts is very low.”
Deuna has since performed large fermentations on the most promising antibiotic extracts to obtain useful quantities of the antibiotic compounds, and she is now working on figuring out the chemical structure of these compounds using advanced chemical analysis techniques.
Deuna is a solid example of how Ata and Holloway engage their undergraduates in research that results in award-winning presentations.
Currently Deuna is carrying out a chemical investigation of these bioactive extracts for the identification of lead antimicrobial compounds with her colleague Harjot Kaur Sidhu. This research at the interface of chemistry and biology helps students to apply their classroom learning in a research lab.
“I like that UWinnipeg has science labs. Labs give you a hands-on experience. I think it helps me learn better and it is easier to apply what I have learned in class,” said Deuna.