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University of Regina researchers battle antibiotic resistant microbes

News Release Release Date: October 4, 2016 9:35 a.m.

Infections caused by antibiotic resistant microbes now kill an estimated 700,000 people a year worldwide, a number that is set to skyrocket to 10 million by 2050. These alarming numbers are the reason that a University of Regina research team has focused on understanding antibiotic resistance and developing the diagnostic tools to deal with it.

Dr. Andrew Cameron, a biologist in the Institute for Microbial Systems and Society (IMSS) Research Laboratory, says part of his team’s work is aimed at achieving a better understanding of how and why bacterial pathogens initiate infections.

“My team takes a two-tiered approach to research to help us better understand antibiotic resistance and, on the basis of this, how to reduce the spread of infectious disease,” says Cameron.

Already their research has had positive results. Collaborators from the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas were dealing with a serious antibiotic-resistance problem when they found they had an organism that wasn’t resistant for the usual reason. Based on information from the IMSS lab, the American team developed a new genetic test for the mutation that allowed them to quickly predict whether or not the organism was resistant, something that would have taken months if the bacterial culture had to be grown in a lab.

“I’ve never been part of a knowledge translation process where scientific discovery was so quickly implemented,” Cameron says. “That is a great success for science.”

Cameron’s team is also working with several Saskatchewan partners. Along with the Saskatchewan Centre for Disease Control, they are trying to learn more about strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the province. They are also collaborating with Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region to understand vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) outbreaks that recur in Saskatchewan hospitals, in order to develop ways of quickly identifying and dealing with future outbreaks.

In future, Cameron says, the IMSS lab will be working to improve and discover better ways of generating and analyzing the information that can be derived from DNA sequencing.

“This is what health authorities worldwide recognize can be a “game-changer” for detecting and controlling the spread of disease,” he says. Read about Cameron’s work, and more, in the University of Regina’s new research magazine, Discourse at: www.uregina.ca/discourse.

 

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