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. Lamarche, D, Johnstone, J, Zytaruk, N, Clarke, F, Hand, L, Loukov, D et al.. Microbial dysbiosis and mortality during mechanical ventilation: a prospective observational study. Respir. Res. 2018;19 (1):245. doi: 10.1186/s12931-018-0950-5. PubMed PMID:30526610 .
  2. Whelan, FJ, Rossi, L, Stearns, JC, Surette, MG. Culture and Molecular Profiling of the Respiratory Tract Microbiota. Methods Mol. Biol. 2018;1849 :49-61. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-8728-3_4. PubMed PMID:30298247 .
  3. Hayes, CL, Dong, J, Galipeau, HJ, Jury, J, McCarville, J, Huang, X et al.. Commensal microbiota induces colonic barrier structure and functions that contribute to homeostasis. Sci Rep. 2018;8 (1):14184. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32366-6. PubMed PMID:30242285 PubMed Central PMC6155058.
  4. Klein, TA, Pazos, M, Surette, MG, Vollmer, W, Whitney, JC. Molecular Basis for Immunity Protein Recognition of a Type VII Secretion System Exported Antibacterial Toxin. J. Mol. Biol. 2018;430 (21):4344-4358. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2018.08.027. PubMed PMID:30194969 PubMed Central PMC6193138.
  5. Kelly, MS, Surette, MG, Smieja, M, Rossi, L, Luinstra, K, Steenhoff, AP et al.. Pneumococcal Colonization and the Nasopharyngeal Microbiota of Children in Botswana. Pediatr. Infect. Dis. J. 2018;37 (11):1176-1183. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000002174. PubMed PMID:30153231 PubMed Central PMC6181769.
  6. Acosta, N, Heirali, A, Somayaji, R, Surette, MG, Workentine, ML, Sibley, CD et al.. Sputum microbiota is predictive of long-term clinical outcomes in young adults with cystic fibrosis. Thorax. 2018;73 (11):1016-1025. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2018-211510. PubMed PMID:30135091 .
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Bernier, SP, Son, S, Surette, MG. The Mla Pathway Plays an Essential Role in the Intrinsic Resistance of Burkholderia cepacia Complex Species to Antimicrobials and Host Innate Components. J. Bacteriol. 2018;200 (18):. doi: 10.1128/JB.00156-18. PubMed PMID:29986943 PubMed Central PMC6112004.
  10. 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.
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