UC San Diego awarded 5-year, $9.5M federal grant to fund ‘superbug’ research

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The UC San Diego School of Medicine has been awarded a five-year, $9.5 million federal grant to fund research into “superbugs” by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“Superbugs” are bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics and are one of the biggest health threats. The grant was awarded to the school to establish an interdisciplinary center that will research the “superbugs” and how unexpected environmental factors can influence the effectiveness of antibiotics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, many of them in hospitals, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result.

"I worry the approaches currently used in the clinic to evaluate antibiotic activity are antiquated and simplistic, and address the drug’s action only on bacteria growing in artificial laboratory media without the attention to the human immune system," Dr. Victor Nizet, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacy said. Their research has found that antibiotics synergize with the immune system and fight infection in a way that they did not predict in laboratory testing, Nizet said.

The program, lead by Nizet and Bernhard Palsson, a professor of bioengineering and pediatrics, will include researchers from the school of medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Jacobs school of Engineering. 

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