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New effort to battle antibiotic resistance rallies researchers throughout Harvard University
Date:10/13/2009

Boston. MA--The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have awarded $5 million to an interdisciplinary group of Harvard researchers to launch the "Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance." Headed by Michael S. Gilmore, Ph.D., (Senior Scientist, Schepens Eye Research Institute and Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology [Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics], HMS), the group is uniting Harvard institutions in the fight against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other antibiotic resistant infection. The goal of the project is for the research team with a range of expertise to tackle the problem from different directions, and then to translate those findings into better treatments.

It shocked many a year and a half ago when CDC researchers noted that methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) were killing more in the US than HIV/AIDS (over 18,000 deaths per year). According to Gilmore, other penicillin resistant strains of S. aureus cause almost half again as many deaths. Worse, since 2002, MRSA have been acquiring resistance to one of the last line drugs used to treat those infections, vancomycin, a problem he has been studying with scientists at CDC.

MRSA are a major concern for hospitalized patients. More recently they have begun causing infections in healthy individuals in the community as well -- approximately 15% of invasive MRSA infections occur in patients with no known underlying cause. Most of these infections begin as skin infections, some acquired in sports locker rooms and other shared facilities. The infections become life-threatening when the microbe enters the bloodstream. New strains of MRSA have emerged that are causing many of the community infections.

Gilmore credits the Harvard-wide Microbial Sciences Initiative (an initiative launched in 2004 to bring together microbiology researchers from all Harvard campuses), the Harvard Catalyst Clinic
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Contact: Patti Jacobs
pjacobs12@comcast.net
617-864-2712
Schepens Eye Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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