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The World of Microbes with Dr. B. Brett Finlay

June 13, 2013
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Press Release

In this brief video, Dr. B. Brett Finlay describes the fascinating world of microbes, and tells the story of his discovery of the E-Coli 0157 vaccine.


Bugs 'R Us: The Role of Microbes in Disease, Health and Society

On May 21, 2013, Dr. B. Brett Finlay, award-winning microbiologist, delivered the spring 2013 Wall Exchange and examined how bacteria live in the human body and help maintain good health. This talk, held at the Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver, explores new research on the role of the microbiota in health, mechanisms used by microbes to cause disease, and new approaches to counter infections, including potentially using the microbiota to prevent other diseases. The talk opened with The Oscar Hicks Jazz Sextet, with Dr. Finlay on the saxophone.

Abstract: The microbiota (also known as the normal flora of the human body) is comprised of thousands of species of microbes. Only recently have we begun to appreciate the role of these organisms in health, impacting on diarrhea, obesity, various bowel diseases, type I diabetes, asthma, and even brain development. In developed countries, we have gone to great lengths to minimize our exposure to microbes, both pathogenic and harmless. The Hygiene Hypothesis suggests that perhaps we have gone too far, as hominids have evolved in a sea of microbes, and actually need exposure to microbes early in life to develop normally.


About Brett Finlay


Brett Finlay, FRSC, OC, was appointed Peter Wall Distinguished Professor in July 2002. He holds appointments at the Michael Smith Laboratories and in the Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Microbiology & Immunology at UBC. Dr. Finlay's areas of research interest and accomplishment include host-parasite interactions of pathogenic bacteria, especially enteric bacteria, and pioneering the use of cell-based models to study pathogenic bacteria penetrating through epithelial barriers. Research in his lab is focused on understanding bacterial pathogenesis from the perspective of both pathogen and host. Current projects include "Salmonella as a model intracellular pathogen" and "Enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic E.coli." It was a strain of E.coli that was responsible for the deaths of six people and the illness of thousands in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000, when the area's drinking water supply became contaminated. Dr. Finlay's research on how this strain of E. coli attaches to intestinal cells led to the development of a vaccine for cattle which will reduce the threat of future outbreaks. The bovine E.coli vaccine that he developed is being commercialized.