BIOL 491 Most Recent Projects Supervised

1) PREVALENCE OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE GENES IN SEWAGE SAMPLES AT VARIOUS STAGES OF TREATMENT IN NANAIMO B.C. In this ongoing project we are examining these water samples for the presence of genes encoding for Extended Spectrum Beta lactamases (ESBLs) genes with main focus on Carbapenemases.  ESBLs confer Enterobacteria  Resistance to almost every B-lactam antibiotic available.  We are also looking of evidence of the MecA gene which gives Staphylococcus spp. resistance to methicillin which is one of the main features of MRSA. In both situations the presence of these genes in treated water might indicate that bacteria carrying these genes could been released into the environment.

Scott Britney (2017-2018)   (In progress) will continue the detection and attempt to determine the concentration of carbapenemase-producing genes blaKPC-2, blaNDM-1, and blaOXA-48 in sewage from  primary and secondary treatment the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)

Jeremy Kalicum (2017-2018) (In progress) will continue the detection and attempt to determine the concentration of the mecA gene in sewage from  primary and secondary treatment the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)

Jake Baas (2016-2017) Multiplex PCR detection of carbapenemase-producing genes blaKPC-2, blaNDM-1, and blaOXA-48 in sewage from the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre

Tomm Hailey (2016-2017) Detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus spp. using multiplex PCR for genes mecA, pvl, and 16S rRNA using samples from Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Center

Graeme Benzie (2015-2016) Detection of Carbapenemase-producing blaKPC gene in Sewage from the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Center (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)

Dilbir Parmar (2014-2015) The Isolation of Carbapenem-Resistant Gram-negative Bacteria from Selected Water Sources in Nanaimo, B.C., Canada (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)

2) ISOLATION OF ANTIOBIOTIC RESISTANT AND “ANTIBACTERIAL PRODUCT” RESISTANT STRAINS OF STAPHYLOCOCCUS spp FROM COMMUNITIES IN VANCOUVER ISLAND We had been collecting Staphylococcus  isolates since 2003  by swabbing public places (phones, ATM machines, grocery carts, door handles etc.), homeless shelters, needle exchange clinics, and many other locations in Nanaimo, Victoria, and Campbell River.  We had characterize the isolates and tested them in the lab for antibiotic resistance and resistance to antimicrobial products. At this point we have a collection of about 100 isolates which had been characterize for the antibiotic resistace profile and their sensitivity to selected antimicrobial agents.  Several students had been contributing to this project since the beginning:

Tristan Douglas (2014-2015) Frequency of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus spp. Colonization among Nursing Students at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Cole Van Pystra (2013-2014) ” Prevalence of methicillin-resistance and Panton-Valentine Leukocidin genes in Staphylococcus spp. isolates from anterior nares of students from Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia”

Colten Linterman (2012-1013) ” Prevalence of Panton-Valentine Leukocidin Genes in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-Resistant Coagulase-Negative Staphylococci Isolates from Central and South Vancouver Island, British Columbia”



Shelby Reimer (2016-2017) Inhibition of Bacterial Quorum Sensing by Ibuprofen in Chromobacterium violaceum CV026

Amanda Bibby. (2013-2014) Detection of Anammox Bacteria in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems using Nested PCR (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)

Jenna Langill. (2013-2014)  The Effect of D-Amino Acids on Biofilms of Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus salivarius (co-supervised with Dr. J. Amaral)


Microbiology Courses

Dr. Hernandez Office Hours for Fall 2019: Mon-Wed- Fri: 9:40 – 11:20 am. Other times can be arranged by making an appointment.

Biology Department  Office: Building 370 room 117

COURSES FALL 2019: BIOL 210 Microbiology I, BIOL 336 Bacterial Genetics

COURSES SPRING 2020: BIOL 211 Microbiology II, BIOL 436 Pathogenic Microbiology

BIOL 491 : My areas of  Interest for Undergraduate Research Projects    

 Antibiotic resistance in potentially pathogenic bacteria has been the subject of attention in the news for a few years now.  Although there has always been antibiotic resistant strains in nature, there seems to be an unusually large increase in the amount of antibiotic resistant strains in heavily populated areas.  There are many explanations for this surge, one of which is the widespread overuse of antibiotics My main research interest is to determine how common are antibiotic resistant strains in the urban environment, and  in the future try to identify underlying factor that contribute to this problem.  Another aspect of my research interest, involves the study of the effect that the use of antibacterial products may be having in the same population of  bacterial strains.   Are we going to see an increase in the number of “antibacterial products” resistant bacteria?  Some recent research has suggested a correlation between the use of “antimicrobial products”  and antibiotic resistance.  In some instances, it seems that genes associated with antibiotic resistance may be linked to genes that convey  “antimicrobial products” resistance.  Another interesting project (a research collaboration with Dr. John Amaral) is the survival of S. aureus (and MRSA) on different materials which was  initially the undergraduate research work of our students Fernando Polanco and Danielle Peters

Recently, I have started to look for MRSA and the presence of additional virulence genes such as the leukocydin toxin  PVL among Staphylococcus spp. isolate from the environment and  samples isolate from volunteers noses.  My BIOL 491student Cole Van Pykstra compared nursing students with biology students for the carriage of this bacteria in their noses and found that the % of MRSA carriers were well within the Canadian average. This project was followed up by the student Tristan Douglas (2014-2015) , who  collected samples from these students again to determine if the % carriers changes after the nursing students start their practical work in health care facilities. The results of this project did not show a significant increase of MRSA carriage on the students sampled

Recently Dr John Amaral and myself started to co-supervise  student research involving the detection of Extended Beta-lactam resistance among coliform bacteria. The 1st project (2014-2015) had the student  Dilbir Parmar collecting water samples from lakes in the Nanaimo area to determine if there was evidence of Extended Beta-lactam resistance among the coliform bacteria isolate on these water samplesA number of isolates showed resistance to Carbapenems (specific type of B-lactam antibiotic). We are also interested in studying the effect of treatment of sewage water at the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Centre in the elimination of Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase (ESBLs) genes as well as a the methicillin resistance encoding MecA, which is typically associated with MRSA.

In the past few years our student Graeme Benzie (2015-2017)  focused his research in the detection of specific  genes encoding for Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamases (ESBLs) in samples collected from Sewage from the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Center. These enzymes give the bacteria that produces them the ability to inactivate all currently used beta-lactam antibiotics, thus make them the potential to become “superbugs”. This project was continued by the student Jake Baas (2016-2017). Jake collected a number of samples during the summer and fall months to determine if there are fluctuations in the presence of  these bacteria between the summer and fall.  In (2017-2018) the student Scott Britney looked for evidence of these genes on differently treated sewage water as well as in samples of recreational waters around Nanaimo.  The student Hailey Tomm (2016-2017) worked on the detection of the MecA and the specific  S. aureus associated  pvl gene in  samples collected from Sewage from the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Center.   Jeremy Kalicum (2017-2018) studied the effect of the treatment on the ability to detect these genes in the waste water samples and also looked for these genes  recreational waters.  Although the ESBLs & MecA  were detected on the waste water, none of the recreational water samples tested positive for these genes.  In the year (2018-19) students Trevor Michalchuk & Chase Ennis were looking  looking for evidence of antibiotic resistance genes in soil samples and commercially available meat samples, respectively. Trevor was able to detect ESBLs  on the soils of some public parks  and trails in the Nanaimo region.  Chase found ESBLs on several of the meat  & poultry samples tested, but interestingly enough none of the locally produced meat samples was positive for these genes.   The last phase of this ongoing project will involve testing household kitchen sponges donated by students & faculty.  The student Andre Gauvin (2019-2020) will be testing DNA extracted from the biological material in the sponges for the presence of both ESBLs and MecA genes.

HOWEVER: If you have some interesting idea and you would like to work with me for you BIOL 491 project , I would be prepare to consider it as long as you have done some preliminary literature research on the subject and have some specific experiment in mind. Just follow the link below to check the complete list of projects that I had supervised over the 18 years I had been here at VIU

  Link to  BIOL 491 RESEARCH PROJECTS  that I had supervised