Name: Dr. Magnus Steigedal
Position: Director of NTNU's Thematic Strategic Area of Health, Welfare and Technology
Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Tell me a bit about how you came to be interested in TB and what your work entails.
I have a background in molecular genetics and biotechnology with a PhD on the bacterial production of the polysaccharide alginate. After my PhD I wanted to apply my knowledge on medically relevant microbes. Mycobacterial infections, including TB, interested me, both because of the enormous Global Health problem the diseases cause and also because these pathogens have followed and plagued humans of all times. How come they are so successful? In my Postdoc I started working on non-TB mycobacteria (M. avium), an increasing problem for our health systems. Later I’ve worked on other mycobacteria, including Mtb, and we have recently opened a BSL-3 lab at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. In my lab we focus on how Mtb hi-jack host systems and hide from the hos defenses. We study mycobacterial protein secretion systems, in particular ESX-systems and predominantly the ESX-3 system.
What is the most interesting thing about working with/treating TB?
The most interesting aspect for me is the fact that M. tuberculosis lives mostly as a parasite within the cells that are supposed to kill them and protect us. How do they do this?
What do you think is the biggest challenge today for successfully eradicating TB?
The biggest challenge for eradication of TB today is that we still know only a small fraction of how the bacterium can infect us so successfully. Equally, to successfully eradicating TB it will be essential to develop and sustain well-functioning health care systems.
What would you like the public (and general microbiological audience) to appreciate about TB?
TB-research requires work with a slow growing BSL 3 pathogen where genetic tools are scarce. Just basic running of a lab requires lots of resources and slows down development.