Yong Kai Ng

Email: yokn@ssi.dk
Twitter: duncan_ng
Website: www.duncan.science


Statens Serum Institut
Artillerivej 5
2300 København S

Industrial PhD Student at The University of Copenhagen
Department for Veterinary and Animal Sciences
Stigbøjlen 4
1870 Frederiksberg C

Education and Experience

My passion for biology started in primary school when I saw a documentary about infectious disease. At the time, there was the H5N1 influenza outbreak or commonly known as “bird flu”. They explained how the virus evolved into the killer that causes disease and how it escalated. It fascinates me that a simple “shuffle” in their RNA could change a harmless virus to a deadly killer. The documentary further talked about the Spanish flu. The pathogen that wiped out 3% to 6% of the world population in 1918. I knew then that microbiology was a field that I wanted to work and contribute in. 

Fast forward a decade and a bit and I find myself at the University of Glasgow graduating with a BSc in Virology. My time there was filled with wonderful people teaching me what a microbiologist could do to study infectious disease. The Centre of Virus Research (CVR) is based in Glasgow. I had the opportunity to be lectured by some of the leading experts in their field. One of my favourite articles is written by one of my lecturers (DOI: 10.3201/eid0812.010317). It discusses how one defines reservoirs of infection. To summarise the whole paper into a couple of sentences, the reservoir is dependent on what the disease targets. The “target” can change over time making disease control challenging. 

I knew that working knowledge of sequencing data would help me pursue my goal in microbiology. That led me to pursue an MSc in Bioinformatics. A switch from “wet lab” to “dry lab” was tough but rewarding. I ended up loving the bioinformatic aspect of biology. For my master’s dissertation, I wrote a programme that generates a circular plot to help visualise single nucleotide polymorphism in viral genomes. 

ESR8 – Novel antimicrobial from the human and animal microbiota

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly found in the human microbiome. It is associated with infections. The discovery of antibiotics alleviated the issues. However, antibiotic resistance has risen due to the use of antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) renders methicillin drugs ineffective. It highlights the importance of new drugs needed to target S. aureus. It is estimated that one-third of the population is a persistent carrier of S. aureus. Some individuals carry them for a short period while others never carry them. One possible explanation of this phenomenon is the presence of bacteria in the community that prevents the colonisation of S. aureus. There are a few examples of the observed effect. Staphylococcus lugdunensis can produce an antimicrobial compound called lugdunin.  

The overall aim of my study is to find novel antimicrobial that inhibits S. aureus. The first step is the identification of potential candidates that might be responsible for the inhibitory effect. By mining a large nasal microbiome dataset from humans, statistical models can be used to identify bacteria that negatively correlated with S. aureus. Next, the bacteria are isolated, and the mechanism of action is identified. A similar study utilising pig nasal swabs will be done in Wageningen.