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Congratulations to this year's Annual Conference Poster Prize winner

19 June 2018
Earlier this year Journal of Medical Microbiology awarded a prize for the best poster at the Society's Annual Conference in Birmingham.

 Judged by the journal's Editorial Board and presented by co-Editor-in-Chiefs Kalai Mathee and Norman Fry, this year's winner is Mimi Asogwa for her poster entitled "Investigating the role of the bacterial mechanosensitive channel YnaI in Salmonella pathogenesis".

 Following the conference, we caught up with Mimi to ask her about her work. 

  Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?

My growing up was in an environment with high prevalence of diseases usually transmitted through contaminated food and/or water: cholera, typhoid, dysentery etc. I have seen the devastating effect on families affected when it results in mortality especially in children. I became curious in finding out how these microorganisms could have such a deleterious effect and this fueled my interest in becoming a scientist. I decided that I wanted to help save life by improving the understanding of how these organisms operate so that preventable solutions can be developed.

 Furthermore, while studying my degree programme at University, I took special interest in Microbes, infection and Immunity module that I took in 2nd year; I was fascinated by the wide range of infectious diseases caused by different microbes. In addition, I was intrigued by different mechanisms used by these microbes to survive and persist in diverse hosts and cause diseases. 

  What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?

Salmonella enterica is a food-borne pathogen associated with about 100 million cases of gastroenteritis in humans annually. Salmonella also affects farm animals such as chicken, pigs and cattle causing salmonellosis, which affects welfare and productivity. Many bacterial species including Salmonella require specialized proteins that enable them survive exposure to environmental extremes: mechanosensitive channels are required for bacteria to survive hypoosmotic shock (transition from high to low salt environment). YnaI is one of the mechanosensitive channels found in Salmonella. Previous studies have suggested that deletion of Salmonella YnaI reduced intestinal colonization in pigs, cattle, and chicken.

 My project is focused on investigating the unique characteristics, structure and function of the Salmonella YnaI channel with a view to better understand the mechanisms used by Salmonella in hosts colonization and disease. I am really excited when I get to learn and use new techniques my project to produce results. Example of one of such techniques is Salmonella infection of mammalian cells. 

  How would you explain your poster to a child under 10?

Salmonella can cause food poisoning in humans after eating improperly cooked, contaminated animal produce such as beef or chicken. For my project, I am interested in a protein (YnaI) which helps Salmonella survive different environmental transitions such as excretion from animal intestines into water. After performing series of experiments to understand the function of YnaI, I have observed that YnaI possess some unique characteristics: these characteristics may help us better understand the specific function of YnaI in Salmonella during its infection. 

  What would you be doing in your career if you weren't a scientist?

I would be involved in charity to raise funds which will help support research in areas such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to raising funds, I would be involved in helping to create awareness to the general public on the importance of such research.

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