Beating Back Multidrug Resistant Bacteria

Drs. Zhou, Toone, and Fowler created a new research team, working on a project funded through a DTRI Pilot Program award. Photo by Duke University Photography.

The World Health Organization recognizes antibiotic resistance as a leading threat to human health around the world. If nothing changes, the WHO estimates that by the year 2050, antimicrobial resistance could kill 300 million people and cost 100 trillion dollars.

“This is one of the world’s top health threats and the global need is increasing at a time that new agents are disappearing from the investigational pipeline, particularly agents for the most resistant bacteria,” says Vance Fowler, an expert at Duke in infectious diseases.

With the help of funding from the Duke Translational Research Institute (DTRI), Fowler is collaborating across departmental lines with Duke faculty members Pei Zhou and Eric Toone in an exploration of the efficacy of beating back multidrug-resistant bacteria by using chemical compounds known as LpxC inhibitors. These chemical compounds disrupt the formation of Lipid A in the protective membranes around Gram-negative bacteria – a novel way of destroying bacteria.