Dr Carla Perez Mon on falsified antimicrobials

She talks about how falsified antimicrobials increase mortality and morbidity due to treatment failures, whether the biological profiles of these antimicrobials she is working on can help local authorities narrow down geographic distribution, the challenges of incomplete databases, and the importance of work-life balance.

Carla Perez Mon

Carla is a trained environmental microbiologist with a background in biology and genetics. She completed internships in developmental biology, developmental neurobiology, and cancer research. She has experience in monitoring field and in vitro experiments, molecular biology, amplicon sequencing and metagenomics, biochemical characterization of soil and water samples, project management, and statistical data analysis. 

She recently completed her PhD at ETH -Zurich, where she applied metabarcoding and metagenomics to study the diversity and functionality of microbial communities in permafrost soils.

She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Forensic Environmental Genomics in Prof. Rob Ogden's group, where she is performing targeted next-generation sequencing of microbial and eukaryotic communities associated with falsified antimicrobials to determine if the biological profiles of these antimicrobials can be used to determine their origin.

Could you briefly summarise your work?

In my postdoctoral research project, I am applying next-generation eDNA sequencing to characterize the microbial and eukaryotic communities (also known as Pharmabiome ) associated to falsified antimicrobials. My goal is to determine if the biological profiles of these antimicrobials can provide information about their geographic origin (e.g., by mapping biological species with narrow geographic distributions) and thereby inform local authorities about their production sites.

Why is your research important? How is it relevant to people's lives?

Reportedly, about 10% of medical products worldwide are falsified, of which falsified antimicrobials (e.g., antibiotics and antimalarials) account for about 40%. Falsified antimicrobials increase mortality and morbidity due to treatment failures. In addition, falsified antimicrobials often contain suboptimal concentrations of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, which promotes the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

What are the major challenges in your field?

In the field of environmental genomics, I think one of the biggest challenges is the lack of complete databases, e.g., for species, that equally represent biological groups. In the area of drug quality and pharmaceutical forensics, a major challenge is to unambiguously identify eDNA sequences in falsified drugs that were actually added to them during the manufacturing process and that correspond to biological species that can be mapped to narrow geographic origins.

What inspired you to be a scientist?

Mainly curiosity.

What do you like best about your job? What do you like the least?

I really like the applicable side of my current research. The least I like is the amount of effort to extract enough DNA from medicines, not an easy task!

If you could have tea with another scientist (alive or dead), who would it be? What would you talk about?

It would be Lynn Margulis. I will love to ask her how she came up with the endosymbiotic theory that explains the origin of eukaryotic cells. 

What is the most unusual thing you have done as a scientist?

All research is somehow unusual. After all we are hunting for new knowledge!

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be doing?

I would have tried to become a writer.

Do you have any advice for people who want to go into this field of research or start a career as a scientist?

Be patient, be curious, and find a good balance between your work as a scientist and your personal life.

What do you think are the major challenges facing humanity? How can science help?

Ensure quality of life (from food to medicines to shelter) for an ever-growing population worldwide and adapt as a society to climate change. 

Science provides knowledge that can contribute to the development of innovative tools (e.g., in my case, the use of eDNA sequencing to ensure the quality of medicines) to address the above issues.

Related Links

Carla Perez Mon profile

Ogden Group