Meet 2024 Infection Science Awardee: Dr Eva Bernadett Benyei

Posted on April 18, 2024   by Microbiology Society

The Microbiology Society Infection Science Award aims to support the exchange of ideas and the career development of promising early career and trainee researchers, helping to translate microbiological research to the clinic. The scheme facilitates selected presenters from the Federation of Infection Society (FIS) conference to present their work at Annual Conference.
In this blog, meet one of this year’s awardees, Dr Eva Bernadett Benyei (PhD student at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge), who presented in the Infection Forum session at Annual Conference 2024 last week.

Dr Eva Bernadett Benyei.jpg

What are your current research interests?

I am currently working on better understanding the biology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen. A particular focus is on exploring how other microbes affect Pseudomonas aeruginosa's biology, especially during antibiotic challenges. I use a recently developed in vitro continuous flow system to stably co-culture a selection of microbial species potentially present in the airways. The results strongly support the notion that inter-species interactions enhance antimicrobial resistance and also reveal how antibiotics remodel mixed-species populations. My research also explores the effects of "evolutionary cheats" – lasR-null mutants – on the stability of these microbial populations.

What is the theme of your talk?

The theme of my talk centres on the complex interactions within polymicrobial infection scenarios, particularly emphasizing the chronic lung infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa in people with cystic fibrosis. Traditional antimicrobial susceptibility tests, typically conducted in mono-cultures, do not account for the intricate interplay among various species in these infections. My research investigates the interactions of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with co-existing microbes, namely Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Through my talk, I aim to shed light on how interspecies interactions influence the behaviour of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, especially when antibiotics are present and advocate for a more sophisticated approach to understanding and treating polymicrobial infections.

How would you explain your research to a GCSE student?

Communication is important not only for us, human beings but also for all living organisms, including bacteria and fungi. Moreover, these microscopic entities typically reside amidst a multitude of other species, and just as our neighbours influence our lives, this microbial company exerts a modifying effect as well. Although, historically, the study of microbes' characteristics and reactions has involved isolating them, primarily due to technical challenges associated with co-culturing multiple species at the same time. However, with advances in technology, it is now possible to investigate the effects of the microbial neighbourhood. In my research, I explore the interactions between two bacterial species and a fungus commonly found in chronic lung infections in individuals with cystic fibrosis.

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

In an alternate universe, I would definitely be a chef. My passion for cooking, particularly the thrill of exploring new culinary techniques and experimenting with flavours, aligns closely with my scientific curiosity. Both fields demand creativity, precision, and a willingness to experiment. Cooking, for me, is akin to a laboratory where spices and ingredients are my reagents, and the kitchen, my research arena – only with more delicious results. I believe the process of tweaking traditional recipes to create something novel mirrors the essence of discovery in research. This blend of art and science in cooking truly captivates me, making the role of a chef an appealing alternative career path.

Why is it important for the infection science community to engage with the Microbiology Society?

Engaging with the Microbiology Society is vital for the infection science community as it fosters collaborations that are essential for advancing our understanding and treatment of infectious diseases. This partnership facilitates the exchange of knowledge and innovative ideas, enabling scientists and medical professionals to support one another in translating research findings into practical medical solutions. By working together, we can accelerate the journey of scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, leading to the development of more effective treatments and better medications. In essence, this collaboration enriches the entire field, ultimately benefiting patients through improved healthcare outcomes.

Dr Eva Bernadett Benyei

PhD student

Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge