Understanding bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics may lead to better treatments

Feb. 21, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a two-year $378,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the mechanisms underlying drug resistance in bacteria.

Christopher J. Kristich, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at MCW, is principal investigator for the grant. His laboratory studies how bacteria sense environmental stimuli and how these stimuli influence cellular processes that enhance bacterial survival, growth and resistance to antibiotics.

Although the bacterium Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis) is found naturally in the human digestive system, it is one of the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections and is inherently resistant to a variety of antimicrobial agents and commonly prescribed antibiotics. The genetic and molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in E. faecalis are not well-understood. One aim of the project is to determine the relationship between drug resistance and cellular levels of different nucleotides, the biochemical building blocks of DNA. The overall goal of these studies is to improve understanding of the genetic basis of bacterial drug resistance.

The project may provide new strategies for preventing or treating infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. The project is funded by NIH grant 1R21AI109198-01.

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