My name is Nuno Cerca and I’m a faculty researcher at University of Minho, in the Centre of Biological Engineering. I’m and Investigador FCT awardee and my main research field is Microbiology. I also work in Bacterial Molecular Biology and Immunology. This is the site of my research team.
We are interested in studying bacterial biofilms of pathogenic microorganisms. Biofilms can be defined as a community of bacteria that are attached to a surface and are involved in a matrix of extrapolymeric substance. This matrix is composed of a mixture of components, such as extracellular polysaccharide, protein, nucleic acids and other substances. Direct observation of a wide variety of natural habitats has established that the majority of microorganisms persist attached to surfaces within a structured biofilm ecosystem and not as free-floating organisms.
When growing in the biofilm phenotype, bacteria exhibit several different characteristics, such as increased antibiotic tolerance and the resistance to clearance by the host immune system. Biofilms plays a paramount role in S. epidermidis infections and this has been the organisms I’ve studied in more detail. Ongoing work aims to better understand the interactions between the biofilm bacteria and the host immune system. We’re also interested in the role of biofilms in Bacterial vaginosis, the most common gynecological disorder in child-bearing age women. Yet, despite its impact on women’s health, little is known about the cause and pathogenesis and BV is currently a highly controversial topic. Interestingly, it was recently found that BV is a biofilm related infection, wherein Gardnerella vaginalis is the main bacterial species involved. Our lab is now interested in determining the role of G. vaginalis biofilms in BV pathogenisis.