Carnegie Mellon University
October 24, 2016

An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance

The discovery and widespread use of antibiotics has defined modern life by transforming medicine and saving millions of lives. Regrettably, bacterial infections are once again a major health threat. The extensive overuse of antibiotics combined with the remarkable ability of bacteria to change their genomic makeup and become resistant to treatment has led to the emergence and spread of untreatable multidrug-resistant bacteria.

As a response, scientific research has focused on the discovery and validation of new classes of antibiotics that target bacterial behaviors rather than bacterial vitality. Pathogenesis is often controlled by community behaviors, termed quorum sensing, where many bacteria employ cell-cell communication to synchronize their activity and trigger disease. The molecular mechanisms that orchestrate collective behaviors represent a novel class of targets for the development of anti-microbial drugs.

At Carnegie Mellon University, Luisa Hiller from Biological Sciences and Radu Marculescu from Electrical and Computer Engineering have joined forces to stay ahead in the arms race between antibiotics and resistance. How long will this new class of drugs be effective? What can be done to inhibit or slow down the spread of resistance? Together with graduate students Guopeng Wei, Chieh Lo, and Connor Walsh, they combined microbial molecular mechanisms and novel computational models and simulated the spread of drug resistance. Their long-term goal is to guide clinical practice to increase the likelihood of success for this promising class of drugs. Their work entitled “In Silico Evaluation of the Impacts of Quorum Sensing Inhibition (QSI) on Strain Competition and Development of QSI Resistance“ is available in the journal Scientific Reports, which is part of the Springer Nature Publishing Group.