SFU researchers looking to fight drug-resistant superbugs

Researchers at the University of the Lower Mainland are studying superbugs to help develop new treatments for drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University are studying the genes of superbugs, infection-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic treatment. The research is a collaboration between Lee Lab and Brinkman Lab, which are part of the interdisciplinary SFU Omics Data Science Initiative (OSDI).

The World Health Organization has listed antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance as one of Top 10 Global Health Threats.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when disease-causing bacteria have a way of overcoming antibiotics used in infection treatment, said Assistant Professor Amy Lee.

Lee, who is part of SFU’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, said the lab is trying to understand how bacteria develop resistance as it renders drugs ineffective.

The team has analyzed thousands of bacterial genomes, including E. coli, SFU said.

The study’s lead author, Venus Lau, is most interested in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is “known to be naturally resistant to membrane-based drugs.” It can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), or other parts of the body, especially in people who are sick or recovering from surgery in the hospital.

“Drugs don’t get into the bacteria easily, and over time, they tend to acquire other resistance mechanisms. It’s a tough bug to treat.”

Meanwhile, antiviral drugs are another way to overcome drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Another approach to treating bacterial infections with antibiotics to overcome the problem of resistance involves antiviral drugs. SFU notes that new antiviral therapies “aim to ‘disarm’ or inhibit the ability of bacteria to cause disease without leading to the development of resistance, in contrast to antibiotics that kill bacteria, which essentially encourage bacteria to develop Drugs come to ”fight back'” to fight back.

Patrick Taylor, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU, said antiviral therapies could reduce disease and reduce the burden on the healthcare system by reducing the bacteria’s ability to cause damage, giving the body’s immune system time to clear the pathogen.

Also read: Superbugs keep microbiologists up at night

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