Public Release: 

UMD School of Medicine researchers studying new approach to antibiotic resistance

US military-funded research could help stave off drug-resistant staph infections

University of Maryland School of Medicine

BALTIMORE, MD. -- Antibiotic resistance to serious wound and systemic infections is a growing concern, particularly among those injured in combat. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) are studying how to fend off deadly infections by targeting the body's immune response to harmful bacteria.

The research will focus on life-threatening infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumoniae (KP), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), to see if this new approach will improve the outcome of infection in a burn wound.

Rather than fighting the pathogens once infection is present, researchers are instead using small molecules, or peptides, to change how the body's immune system responds when it is exposed to them. "This approach could pave the way toward treating a wide range of infections," said Alan Cross, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine in UM SOM's Center for Vaccine Development, who is the principal investigator for the research.

With a $1.18 million, three-year grant awarded by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA), in collaboration with Dr. Raymond Kaempfer of the Hebrew University, Israel, Dr. Cross's team will develop novel peptides to keep the immune system from responding with the typical inflammation that takes place when the body is exposed to pathogens and is trying to fight off infection.

In prior research, Dr. Cross' s team discovered that preventing this inflammatory response helps the body's immune system better fight against infections.

"What we have been focusing on is not to deal with the bacteria, but the host response to the bacteria," said Dr. Cross.

Using special molecules, or peptides, researchers will target the co-stimulation receptors in the immune system called CD28, B7-1 and B7-2, in order to stunt or fend off the inflammation and white blood cell activation.

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