On 17th March 2023, the Herbal Research Group of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) held its 2nd Herbal Research Webinar Series 2023 online via Zoom. As the guest speaker at the event, Professor Simon Gibbons, from the Centre for Natural Products Discovery, Liverpool John Moores University was invited to present a lecture on the topic of phytochemistry entitled “Phytochemistry – not just for drugs and busting bugs”. The event received an audience of some 40 participants including staff, students and alumni from various faculties and departments of UBD, Ministry of Health, Suri Seri Begawan Hospital, Universiti Kuala Lumpur – Royal College of Medicine Perak and Semarang University (Indonesia). The lecture covered several interesting aspects including antibacterial phytochemicals, bacterial efflux inhibitors, plasmid transfer inhibitors, natural products as templates for novel psychoactive substances and thermal springs as a reservoir of bacterial diversity.
Professor Simon began his presentation by highlighting the urgent need for new antibiotics in order to combat the multidrug resistance phenomenon that has been advancing at an alarming rate. He shared that numerous phytochemicals isolated from different plants and their analogues possess remarkable antibacterial activities and can be prospected to tackle the multidrug resistance dilemma. Following an elaboration on the various efflux pumps and mechanisms that occur in bacteria to avoid antibiotics, he showcased some of the efflux-inhibiting compounds that his research team has identified throughout the years. Later, he also expanded on the mechanisms of plasmid transfer and bacterial conjugation, as well as the phytochemical compounds they found that have shown notable inhibitory activities against these mechanisms.
Moving on, Professor Simon revealed some synthetic analogues and natural sources of common psychoactive substances that are able to exude similar pharmacological effects and were thus widely abused due to the lack of legislative regulation around the alternatives. Considering the structural and pharmacological similarities of the analogues to the psychoactive substances restricted by law, he warned of the dangers of the misapplication of such substances and products.
As a conclusion to his presentation, Professor Simon shared with the audience the rich bacterial diversity that his research team discovered in a thermal spring in Bath, United Kingdom. Through genomic profiling, close to 300 genera were identified, including various ones that have not been well studied. Further tests showed that some of the isolates were able to produce noticeable antibacterial properties and biological activities.
To conclude the event, a virtual group photo was taken with the participants followed by an illuminating question-and-answer session between the participants and Professor Simon. A video recording of the 2nd Herbal Research Webinar Series 2023 can be accessed via https://youtu.be/T0RkOznmZHM.