Welcome to our Meet the SDG3 researcher Blog collection. We interview a number of academics and practitioners who work in various fields to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives for all people of all ages and promote well-being. More articles from this collection can be found here, and find out what else Springer Nature is doing to advance this goal on our dedicated SDG3 hub.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a trained pharmacist. I graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy at Alexandria University in 2003, where I did my Masters while working as a teaching assistant at Alexu. I investigated the antimicrobial potential of some pharmaceutical excipients and found that Pemulen®, a viscosity-imparting polymer, has antibiotic potential – a finding that also inspired my doctoral thesis. As a pharmacist with a particular interest in microbiology, I found antimicrobial resistance, especially in developing countries, a challenge that I wanted to address. In my PhD years (2007-2010) I focused on the factors that influence biofilm formation between gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial isolates from Egypt.
My work emphasized the increased antimicrobial resistance of older biofilms and the potential of some antimicrobial agents, when misused at levels insufficient to kill them, to promote the formation of biofilms – an observation that led me to focus on the years later Focus on raising awareness of antimicrobial management.
At this point in my career, a chance encounter with a researcher from Armenia in late 2010 while returning home from a family vacation while we were both waiting for our return flight led me to Fulbright Scholarships. She shared her experiences as a Fulbrighter and how it had affected her life and career. I was very impressed and returned home to review the Fulbright programs and plan the right one. I never stayed in contact with the Armenian researcher, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank her and wish her all the best, wherever she is in the world.
The nine months that I spent in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Alan Wolfe at Loyola University Chicago and then a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Kristich at the Medical College of Wisconsin deepened my knowledge of molecular biology and genetic engineering.
When I returned home in 2014 as an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at my alma mater, I was ready for a change of focus. I wanted to use my newly acquired experience and background to understand the mechanisms of resistance and to investigate the genotypes of antimicrobial resistant clinical isolates from Egypt, as these were still largely unknown at the time. We were aware of the high levels of resistance in the pharmaceutical and medical fields, but these values were neither fully documented nor properly explained the resistance mechanisms of the Egyptian isolates. The knowledge gap has been a major setback for most infection control and antimicrobial management plans.
To fill this gap, I participated in a number of research projects on staphylococci as a gram-positive model pathogen and Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa as gram-negative examples. One of my early Masters students, Marwa Naguib, reported the prevalence of fusidic acid resistance among isolates from Alexandria, Egypt that were also methicillin resistant, and we found a role for plasmid-mediated fusB and fusC Genes in mediating resistance in these isolates.
How is your work on SDG3?
Antibiotic resistance is by far a very pressing research question, especially in low resource environments, as it affects our ability to treat infections that would otherwise be curable. In Egypt, many patients rely on self-medication or the advice of friends and neighbors to prescribe antibiotics. This, coupled with the fact that antibiotics are available over the counter, has led to antibiotic abuse that has driven antibiotic resistance to above average levels. This touches on the core role of pharmacists in the community. In addition to our laboratory work, my students and I have organized public awareness campaigns in Alexandria to warn of the risks of antibiotic abuse that are consistent with SDG 3.3, SDG 3.b and SDG 3.d.
In the past two decades, research in Egypt has come a long way since most researchers were self-funded. In accordance with SDG 3.c, principal investigators can apply for research funding competitively and through several funding mechanisms. This has certainly improved the quality of research and has robbed young researchers of the chance to focus on their studies rather than worrying about funding their work.
Are there any highlights from your projects and research collaborations?
In 2015 I worked with Prof. Andrew Whitelaw at Tygerberg Hospital, Stellenbosch University, South Africa to develop the spa, SCCmec and MLST types of MRSA isolates from Alexandria and the effect of genotype on resistance to moxifloxacin. For this project we received funding from the Egyptian STDF (Science and Technology Development Fund, currently Science, Technology and Innovation Funding Authority), the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and the South African National Research Foundation. The project also supported the graduation of my first PhD student Mustafa Alseqely.
Other projects soon followed and we expanded our cooperation network to include PD. Dr. Wilma Ziebuhr from the University of Würzburg and Prof. Revathi Gunturu from the Agha Khan University, Kenya. We were funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) and use a genomic approach to investigate the resistance to several active substances of the last resort in Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase negative staphylococci. This project supported the graduation of my master’s student Lina Maarouf and the work of my current student Aisha Hamdy.
My team also works with Dr. Benjamin Evans of the University of East Anglia on a project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund to use genomics to type carbapenem-resistant A. baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the elucidation of the antimicrobial resistance in these isolates (further work can be found here and here).
In 2017 I started a grant from the Fogarty International Center JORDAN Program to study responsible research. Since then, I’ve been interested in ethics in clinical practice and research. In this context, I have attended and organized workshops in order to sensitize Egyptian researchers to the most important aspects of responsible research.
I was an associate editor for Antibiotic resistance and infection control for over two years. This role, along with the occasional review of academic journals, has made me appreciate the great effort behind the scenes by editors and reviewers to make our findings available to readers in the academic community and beyond.
Tell us about a resource or person who particularly inspired you.
My mother has always been my role model. She is a professor of pharmacology in the Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexu, and research was an important part of our life during my formative years. As a primary school student, my first complete sentence for my French class was “Maman travaille sur les grenouilles”, Which translates as“ my mother works on frogs ”- that’s how impressed I was by my mother’s research on frogs to study the pharmacological effects of the various drugs. In addition to doing research, my mother taught my brother and me the values of hard work and perseverance. I owe my attitude to her that she never gave up. This is a very useful feature when applying for research funding. Thank you mother!
I was also inspired by Prof. Dr. Alan Wolfe who was my mentor during my Fulbright internship at Loyola University Chicago. From him I learned the value of international collaboration and multidisciplinary work. Other people who have influenced my work and my life are my master and PhD advisors: Prof. Dr. Hamida Abou-Shleib, who repeatedly amazed me with her diplomacy in science and life and Prof. Dr. Amal Khalil, who is always a nice word for everyone.
Since I really appreciate the role of my mentors in my life and my professional development, I am happy to return the favor and am there for my students. I recommend that you attend workshops and organize such workshops and exchange programs for you. Meanwhile, I try to instill confidence in their role as pharmacists and the good they can do in society. It gives me great pleasure to see how they present these positive experiences in scientific conferences.
More articles from this collection can be found here.
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