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. Whelan, FJ, Heirali, AA, Rossi, L, Rabin, HR, Parkins, MD, Surette, MG et al.. Longitudinal sampling of the lung microbiota in individuals with cystic fibrosis. PLoS ONE. 2017;12 (3):e0172811. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172811. PubMed PMID:28253277 PubMed Central PMC5333848.
  2. De Palma, G, Lynch, MD, Lu, J, Dang, VT, Deng, Y, Jury, J et al.. Transplantation of fecal microbiota from patients with irritable bowel syndrome alters gut function and behavior in recipient mice. Sci Transl Med. 2017;9 (379):. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf6397. PubMed PMID:28251905 .
  3. Poonja, A, Heirali, A, Workentine, M, Storey, DG, Somayaji, R, Rabin, HR et al.. Effect of freezing sputum on Pseudomonas aeruginosa population heterogeneity. J. Cyst. Fibros. 2017; :. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2017.01.004. PubMed PMID:28126444 .
  4. Mendonca, ML, Szamosi, JC, Lacroix, AM, Fontes, ME, Bowdish, DM, Surette, MG et al.. The sil Locus in Streptococcus Anginosus Group: Interspecies Competition and a Hotspot of Genetic Diversity. Front Microbiol. 2016;7 :2156. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.02156. PubMed PMID:28119678 PubMed Central PMC5222867.
  5. Bharwani, A, Mian, MF, Surette, MG, Bienenstock, J, Forsythe, P. Oral treatment with Lactobacillus rhamnosus attenuates behavioural deficits and immune changes in chronic social stress. BMC Med. 2017;15 (1):7. doi: 10.1186/s12916-016-0771-7. PubMed PMID:28073366 PubMed Central PMC5225647.
  6. Syed, SA, Whelan, FJ, Waddell, B, Rabin, HR, Parkins, MD, Surette, MG et al.. Reemergence of Lower-Airway Microbiota in Lung Transplant Patients with Cystic Fibrosis. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2016;13 (12):2132-2142. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201606-431OC. PubMed PMID:27925791 .
  7. Branton, WG, Lu, JQ, Surette, MG, Holt, RA, Lind, J, Laman, JD et al.. Brain microbiota disruption within inflammatory demyelinating lesions in multiple sclerosis. Sci Rep. 2016;6 :37344. doi: 10.1038/srep37344. PubMed PMID:27892518 PubMed Central PMC5125007.
  8. Simioni, J, Hutton, EK, Gunn, E, Holloway, AC, Stearns, JC, McDonald, H et al.. A comparison of intestinal microbiota in a population of low-risk infants exposed and not exposed to intrapartum antibiotics: The Baby & Microbiota of the Intestine cohort study protocol. BMC Pediatr. 2016;16 (1):183. doi: 10.1186/s12887-016-0724-5. PubMed PMID:27832763 PubMed Central PMC5103394.
  9. Schenck, LP, Surette, MG, Bowdish, DM. Composition and immunological significance of the upper respiratory tract microbiota. FEBS Lett. 2016;590 (21):3705-3720. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.12455. PubMed PMID:27730630 .
  10. Somayaji, R, Lam, JC, Surette, MG, Waddell, B, Rabin, HR, Sibley, CD et al.. Long-term clinical outcomes of 'Prairie Epidemic Strain' Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in adults with cystic fibrosis. Thorax. 2017;72 (4):333-339. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-208083. PubMed PMID:27682327 .
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