Michael G. Surette, PhD

Professor, Department of Medicine

Joint appointment to the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research


Lab website:

twitter: @surette_m

Google+: +Mike Surette


Bacteria live almost exclusively in communities with other microorganisms, and often in association with multicellular hosts. These communities are capable of maintaining complex structural and functional stability over time, and exhibit fascinating properties of resiliency in response to environmental changes. This is a result of interactions between microbes and the environment and amongst members of the community. A multitude of chemical interactions occur in microbial communities where primary and secondary metabolites contribute to a wealth of interactions between organisms. The chemicals include a variety of nutrients, toxic or neutral metabolic byproducts, antibiotics, and cell-cell signaling molecules. These chemical and physical signals mitigate microbial relationship that can be competitive, cooperative or neutral, and thus are responsible for determining community structure. In turn, the surrounding community changes the microenvironment of individual cells that respond to chemical and environmental cues in a combinatorial manner.  Pathogens must contend with this complex ecology during infection.  For pathogens, these other microbes are the normal microbiota of the human host (the human microbiome).  The human microbiome is poorly defined and composed of thousands of organisms of which relatively few have been characterized.  We are working to define the normal microbiota and to understand the role of small molecule signaling in the ecology of the normal microbiota of the human host.

One of our primary areas of research investigates the role of normal flora-pathogen interactions in health and disease in the area of respiratory infections with a focus in cystic fibrosis.  A polymicrobial perspective on these infections has lead to identification of overlooked pathogens in airway disease as well as synergistic interactions between avirulent organisms and pathogens.  This is a fundamentally different view of airway infections and has lead to direct benefits to patients through altered treatment strategies.

  1. Faria, MMP, Winston, BW, Surette, MG, Conly, JM. Bacterial DNA patterns identified using paired-end Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA genes from whole blood samples of septic patients in the emergency room and intensive care unit. BMC Microbiol. 2018;18 (1):79. doi: 10.1186/s12866-018-1211-y. PubMed PMID:30045694 PubMed Central PMC6060528.
  2. Wallace, JG, Potts, RH, Szamosi, JC, Surette, MG, Sloboda, DM. The murine female intestinal microbiota does not shift throughout the estrous cycle. PLoS ONE. 2018;13 (7):e0200729. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200729. PubMed PMID:30011327 PubMed Central PMC6047814.
  3. Bernier, SP, Son, S, Surette, MG. The Mla pathway plays an essential role in the intrinsic resistance of complex species to antimicrobials and host innate components. J. Bacteriol. 2018; :. doi: 10.1128/JB.00156-18. PubMed PMID:29986943 .
  4. Woo, TE, Lim, R, Surette, MG, Waddell, B, Bowron, JC, Somayaji, R et al.. Epidemiology and natural history of airway infections in non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. ERJ Open Res. 2018;4 (2):. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00162-2017. PubMed PMID:29930949 PubMed Central PMC6004520.
  5. Libertucci, J, Dutta, U, Kaur, S, Jury, J, Rossi, L, Fontes, ME et al.. Inflammation-related differences in mucosa-associated microbiota and intestinal barrier function in colonic Crohn's disease. Am. J. Physiol. Gastrointest. Liver Physiol. 2018; :. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00411.2017. PubMed PMID:29848021 .
  6. Thevaranjan, N, Puchta, A, Schulz, C, Naidoo, A, Szamosi, JC, Verschoor, CP et al.. Age-Associated Microbial Dysbiosis Promotes Intestinal Permeability, Systemic Inflammation, and Macrophage Dysfunction. Cell Host Microbe. 2018;23 (4):570. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.03.006. PubMed PMID:29649447 PubMed Central PMC5899819.
  7. Jung, TD, Jung, PS, Raveendran, L, Farbod, Y, Dvorkin-Gheva, A, Sakic, B et al.. Changes in gut microbiota during development of compulsive checking and locomotor sensitization induced by chronic treatment with the dopamine agonist quinpirole. Behav Pharmacol. 2018;29 (2 and 3 - Special Issue):211-224. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000363. PubMed PMID:29194070 .
  8. Stearns, JC, Simioni, J, Gunn, E, McDonald, H, Holloway, AC, Thabane, L et al.. Intrapartum antibiotics for GBS prophylaxis alter colonization patterns in the early infant gut microbiome of low risk infants. Sci Rep. 2017;7 (1):16527. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-16606-9. PubMed PMID:29184093 PubMed Central PMC5705725.
  9. Yan, A, Culp, E, Perry, J, Lau, JT, MacNeil, LT, Surette, MG et al.. Transformation of the Anticancer Drug Doxorubicin in the Human Gut Microbiome. ACS Infect Dis. 2018;4 (1):68-76. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00166. PubMed PMID:29160065 .
  10. Wessels, JM, Lajoie, J, Vitali, D, Omollo, K, Kimani, J, Oyugi, J et al.. Association of high-risk sexual behaviour with diversity of the vaginal microbiota and abundance of Lactobacillus. PLoS ONE. 2017;12 (11):e0187612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187612. PubMed PMID:29095928 PubMed Central PMC5667760.
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