2022 Activity Report vol.13:University of the Ryukyus

Activity Report of Open Application Program 2022 vol.13 (Course B)

Working towards Joint Research with Indonesia on Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria

School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus
Report from Professor Itaru Hirai

 At the time of application for the Sakura Science Program, the Naha Airport International Terminal, which had many international flights before the COVID−19 pandemic, was closed. I applied for the Sakura Science Program with the theme of "Planning International Joint Research on the Data Analysis and Monitoring System Development of Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria."

 Antimicrobial resistant bacteria, which were discussed in the theme for the exchange program, are bacteria that antibiotics are no longer effective in treating, which are otherwise effective. If the elderly or people who are immunocompromised become infected with antimicrobial resistant bacteria, the risk can be fatal. In fact, estimates reported in 2019 show that approximately 5 million people die annually due to some factors associated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Since antimicrobial resistant bacteria are transported across countries and regions by people and food, it is an important public health issue that should be addressed through international collaboration. Considering these circumstances, this researcher exchange program was extremely important.

 In some aspects, we think preparations were insufficient, such as flight arrangements. However, we managed to conduct this program from December 4th, 2022 to December 17th, inviting three Indonesian researchers to the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus.

 This program had two objectives. The first was to share with Indonesian researchers a new antimicrobial resistant bacterial analysis method developed by the host institution, the Laboratory of Microbiology in the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus. The second was to have discussions with the invited Indonesian researchers to promote international joint research.

 The invited Indonesian researchers are conducting research on bacteria at their government agencies, so they are already proficient in basic bacterial analysis methods. Based on their backgrounds, if they can learn how to analyze antimicrobial resistant bacteria from a new point of view, the method has potential to become an important technical foundation for the development of a monitoring system for antimicrobial resistant bacteria, which is currently only implemented at medical institutions such as hospitals. In the first week of their visit to Japan, they mainly conducted experiments in the host institution's laboratory in order to acquire this new analytical method. Specifically, experiments were conducted using previously isolated antimicrobial resistant strains, focusing on the extraction and processing of bacterial DNA, and the handling of analytical instruments, such as the Nanopore sequencer.

Activity Report Photo 1
Analysis of antimicrobial resistant bacteria using nanopore sequencers.

 On the weekend of their first week, our visitors went to see the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, Shurijo Castle Park, and Cape Hedo, the northernmost tip of Okinawa Island in Yambaru National Park. Although Indonesia is an island country like Okinawa, we think the unique nature and culture of Okinawa, which is different from other parts of Japan, served as a nice break during the two weeks of work in the laboratory.

Activity Report Photo 2
A lovely view from the wall of Shurijo Castle.
Activity Report Photo 3
How's the nature around Cape Hedo?

 In the second week of their visit, participants discussed the bioinformatics analysis and interpretation of the data obtained by the analysis method of antimicrobial resistant bacteria, as well as the research plan and schedule of joint research on antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Activity Report Photo 4
Exchange of opinions for future joint research.

 In order to conduct international joint research, it is usually necessary to form a research organization to clarify and plan out the roles of each participating research institution and researcher. There is also the fact that there are often cases where it is difficult to fully understand the situations and procedures of each country in only short−term business trips or web meetings, so it takes time and effort to form a research organization and coordinate research contents.

 This researcher exchange was an important opportunity for deepening mutual understanding between researchers of Japan and Indonesia. We have high expectations that inviting our fellow researchers from Indonesian through the Sakura Science will lead to further promotion of many research projects in the future.