Purdue Researcher Takes on Antibiotic Resistance

antibiotic needle ( iStock )

There are too few antibiotics being developed to keep up with the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, and the world is starting to run out of antibiotics. This means that hospitals will begin seeing patients with infections they can’t treat, and infections that were once easily treated becoming fatal. Mohamed Seleem, DVM, MS, PhD, a professor of microbiology at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is trying to keep that from happening, according to a university release

Dr. Mohamed Seleem (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Dr. Seleem is studying whether FDA-approved drugs can treat antibiotic-resistant infections. 

“The reality is that we are entering a time where we will run out of antibiotics,” Dr. Seleem said. “It’s a scary thought and it’s a critical situation. That’s what keeps encouraging me – knowing that if this works, this is going to make a difference and potentially save lives.”

Dr. Seleem’s expertise, and the focus of his research, is on developing new antimicrobials and improving delivery of drugs for the treatment of infectious diseases that affect both animals and humans. 

Dr. Seleem and his team are conducting research with more than 4,000 approved drugs to see how many may be able to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. For example, one portion of the research is screening several drugs to see how well they can treat vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), which is to blame for more than 5% of all deaths attributed to antibiotic-resistant infection in the U.S., second only to MRSA, according to the release.

Enterococci are bacteria that live in intestines and genital tracts and can sometimes cause infection. When that happens, they’re treated with an antibiotic called vancomycin. But enterococci are becoming resistant to the drug at an alarming pace. About 20,000 people in the U.S. are infected with VRE each year, and slightly less than 10% of those infections are fatal.

The World Health Organization predicts that death rates from drug-resistant infections will rise from 700,000 per year to 10 million worldwide by 2050, which would make it the main cause of death in humans. Countless lives have been saved with antibiotics since they were introduced, but antimicrobial resistance is becoming a global health emergency. 

“We could be entering a time where patients will fear common infections,” Dr. Seleem said. “My hope is that academia will help provide some answers.”

Several drugs, called carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (CAIs), which are used to treat glaucoma, are being screened to see how well they could treat VRE, the release notes.

“The good news about these drugs is that they don’t require extensive studying because it’s already been approved for human use,” Dr. Seleem said. “The only obstacle that gets in the way is finding the right drug that kills exactly the right bacteria.”

Dr. Seleem’s research is being supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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