Bioart Exhibition in London showcases Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

25/03/2017 - 3 minutes

Microbe Stories, in London, is now exhibiting artwork from Anna Dumitriu, a proclaimed bioartist that brings microbiology research into focus.

Anna Dumitriu is a prolific British bioartist that explores our relationship to the microbial world, with a strong focus on infectious diseases. She’s also the first artist partner of an EU’s Future Emerging Technology (FET) Horizon 2020 project.

Dumitriu incorporates some of the latest techniques in microbiology research through collaboration with top laboratories for the creation of art that aims to bring science closer to the visitors. Her newest exhibition, Microbe Stories, opened this week at the Blyth Gallery from Imperial College London and will be running until the end of May.

The gallery is hosting one of her most famous projects, “The Romantic Disease“, which explores the history of tuberculosis and how the disease has been perceived over the centuries, from early superstitions to the development of antibiotics. Biological matter from mycobacteria, the microorganisms behind the disease, is weaved into some of the pieces to imbue them with deeper meaning.

Anna Dumitriu the Romantic Disease
Felt lungs created at a level 3 security laboratory to incorporate the DNA of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Microbe Stories also features Dumitriu’s work as part of the Modernizing Medical Microbiology Project at the University of Oxford, which tackles the huge challenge of antibiotic resistance through the latest scientific research while reaching out to the public through art.

As part of her residency in Oxford, the artist is creating a MRSA Quilt that tells the story of the research and diagnosis of MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant superbug responsible for difficult-to-treat infections. Made of fabric stained with MRSA bacteria, sterilized before its public exhibition, the quilt represents the microorganism undergoing several common diagnostic tests.

Anna Dumitriu MRSA Quilt

This piece is intended to fill the gap in the general public’s understanding of antimicrobial-resistant superbugs. For example, many do not know that MRSA is a mutated form of a bacteria that’s part of our normal gut microbiome, present in around 25% of the population.

The mechanisms of resistance transfer between bacteria are still not understood, which puts patients in hospitals at high risk. Dumitriu’s MRSA Quilt highlights an issue that the Modernizing Medical Microbiology Project is actively researching to provide a solution for these patients.

The artist is actively engaged with making the latest research accessible to the public. She’s currently working with the FET Horizon 2020 project MRG-Grammar, which investigates new strategies to decipher the “grammar” behind gene regulation. We can’t wait to see what comes out of her work there!

All images from Anna Dumitriu


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