An interview with Dr Tina Joshi

March 2019

Dr Tina Joshi is a Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology (teaching and research) at the University of Plymouth, UK. Here she talks about how her research could help tackle antimicrobial resistance and AMR as a health issue. Tina also gives us an insight into why the Microbiology Society is important and why other members should think about getting more involved with Society activities.

© Tina Joshi

Tell us about your area of research.

Currently my research area is development of rapid diagnostic devices. I aim to develop a diagnostic device that is able to specifically detect antimicrobial resistant (AMR) genes from pathogens at point-of-care, all within the timeframe of a doctor’s appointment – just five minutes. My other research looks at the efficacy of commonly used cleaning products to eradicate AMR organisms in clinical environments.

How could your research help to tackle antimicrobial resistance?

The technology I am developing aims to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in the GP surgery and to detect antibiotic-resistant infections rapidly. This would assist clinicians in timely diagnosis of resistant infections, enhance patient satisfaction and increase antibiotic stewardship across medicine and dentistry. I am hoping that the low-cost device will be used in LMIC’s to aid diagnosis in remote areas and reduce patient mortality as a result of AMR.

I have engaged strongly with the media and the public to maximise the impact of this research. This includes writing for blogs, giving talks to the public and partaking in local and national television programmes.

How important is AMR as a health issue? 

I think the majority of microbiologists working in the area of AMR are aware of the statistic that by 2050 10 million people are predicted to die from AMR infections globally (O’Neill AMR Review, 2014). It is perhaps easy to dismiss this statistic as an exaggeration; however, when one considers epidemiology and transmission of multi-drug resistant infections, the ease with which antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in certain countries and their use in agriculture globally, then this does not sound far-fetched. It is even more worrying that the UK, in particular, prescribed a total of 27 million antibiotics when only 13 million were needed in 2013 and, more recently, a quarter of antibiotics are still over prescribed. Overuse and misuse are contributing to the problem, as well as a lack of engagement by industry and global governments, amongst others. Antibiotics underpin all of modern medicine – so what will people do when their infections cannot be treated? The answer to this is complex, requires a One Health approach and is one of the biggest problems that humanity is facing.

What role do scientists and microbiologists have in tackling AMR? 

Scientists and microbiologists are developing new innovations and discovering new drugs to combat the issue of AMR. This research is essential in finding new breakthroughs which can impact upon AMR organisms. Further, there has been a massive change in the scientific landscape with regards to publicising and engaging others with research and I think microbiologists are doing this fantastically. These awareness activities are crucial in informing the wider public and non-scientists of how they can help to combat AMR.

What are the hot topics in AMR at the moment/ latest scientific breakthroughs? 

The hot topics in AMR definitely include discovery of new antibiotics from bacteria in unconventional places, such as deep-sea sponges, soil etc. Other areas which are quite cool include development of new sequencing technologies and diagnostic technologies for AMR. Blue skies research is the foundation on which new innovations can be built and thus how society can progress technologically.

Why did you choose to become a microbiologist?

I became a microbiologist because when I was in my teens I saw a film called “Outbreak”. The film influenced me significantly and I always thought that one day I would wear a biohazard suit like Dustin Hoffman and save the world!! In all seriousness, I did think that research and infectious microbes were really cool and that I could, perhaps, do some good in the field. So now here I am; trying to follow that dream and do my little bit. And I love it!!

Do you have any advice for early career scientists who’d like to work in AMR?

Microbiology is genuinely such a cool and dynamic field to be working in. If you are an early career scientist, I would strongly encourage you to get laboratory experience with a microbiologist – whether it’s in a university or shadowing biomedical scientists in hospital labs – just do it! Also, I would take time to get involved in the area by joining the Microbiology Society as this will allow you to keep up to date with the newest things happening in microbiology.

Why does microbiology matter?

Microbiology is not only important from a healthcare and AMR perspective, but is important in almost every facet of life. From beer and bread, to sauerkraut and biofuels, microbiology is field which is diverse and there is so much yet to discover. Microbiology is an open ocean waiting to be fully explored and these discoveries can change the world.

Why do you think the Microbiology Society is important?

The Microbiology Society is a fantastic network of microbiologists and I feel deeply proud to be a member. The Society is supportive, friendly and has a modern outlook that benefits its members. Microbiology is nurtured across the board in the Society and this will ensure future generations of microbiologists will become enthused and involved in microbiology.

You are also a member of our Policy Committee, tell us more about your role and why other members should think about getting more involved with society activities? 

I am a member of the Microbiology Society Policy Committee and a Society Champion. As a Policy Committee member, I have the privilege of being able to contribute to key policy issues. Moreover, I have had the opportunity to meet other Policy Committee members and discuss/debate key issues through this role. As a Microbiology Society Champion, I actively promote microbiology in the south west of England and organise outreach events to engage students and the public in microbiology. I think members should get more involved in the Society so that they work together to promote awareness and understanding of microbiology and reach a much wider audience.

If you are a member of the Society and would like to find out more about how you can get involved with Society activities and/or showcase your research, please email us at [email protected].