CDC Award for Penn Med to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

  • October 25, 2016
  • vol 63 issue 11
  • News
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The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has been awarded more than $1 million by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop new approaches to combat antibiotic resistance. Penn researchers will lead three separate projects to support CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. The awards are part of a larger Broad-Agency Announcement (BAA) from the CDC providing a total of more than $14 million in funding for 34 projects focused on understanding the role of the microbiome in order to prevent antibiotic resistance infections, or superbugs.  

Antibiotics are life-saving medicines, but they also can disrupt a person’s microbiome and increase the risk for drug-resistant infections such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). Patients carrying drug-resistant bacteria can easily spread these to other people, especially those who also have an abnormal microbiome, such as patients with compromised immune systems.

Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of the division of infectious diseases, will lead one research initiative focused on the reduction of in-hospital antimicrobial use to prevent C. difficile infection. Brendan Kelly, an instructor in the division of infectious diseases, will lead two additional research projects, one related to C. difficile colonization and infection and another focused on antibiotic-resistant lower respiratory infections during long-term acute care.

“Antibiotic-resistant infections are quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges in modern medicine,” Dr. Lautenbach said. “Almost 700,000 people die from superbug infections each year and that number is only growing. With these new research grants, we aim to learn more about how these microorganisms evolve so we can develop long-term solutions to prevent them.”

This award comes on the heels of a recent United Nations declaration calling for a global commitment to fight antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide. On September 21, all 193 UN member states pledged to increase international coordination and funding aimed at monitoring the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and reducing the misuse of antimicrobial agents.

“By studying the microbiome of patients at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections, we seek to better understand how these infections occur and how they can be prevented,” Dr. Kelly said. “We hope that our research will help advance the global effort to prevent these life-threatening infections.”

Penn, in partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), is also one of only 10 academic medical centers to be designated as a CDC Prevention Epicenter, a patient safety research effort known as the Prevention Epicenters Program (Almanac April 12, 2011). The CDC program was created in 1997 to address the emerging problem of health care-associated infections, including antibiotic resistance.