UB finding medicinal cocktails for super bacteria

May 30, 2017

There is a serious problem around the world - and it is growing. A University at Buffalo research team is taking a new approach to combat the problem with old antibiotics.

If you develop an infection, you may run into one of the growing problems of medicine: bacteria immune to almost all antibiotics. The days of easily using penicillin and its descendants are gone, aided by overuse of the drugs. Instead, doctors are looking for alternatives.

Brian Tsuji is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at UB and lead researcher in a $4.4 million federal grant looking at using a cocktail of older antibiotics as a new weapon. Tsuji says overuse of antibiotics is so bad that they do not always work as expected.

"The carbapenem antibiotics or different antibiotics which we use in hospitals, so now simple sort of pathogens that are gram-negative, such as e-coli, which many of you know of have developed resistance and sometimes there are no drugs or very limited amount of drugs to combat these infections," he says.

That is why Tsuji's research has switched to an assault on those drugs in a new way, one increasingly common in a variety of fields like fighting cancer, tuberculosis or HIV: using an array of drugs. He says this is important locally because medical care has to be prepared if a resistant bacteria shows up here and there has to be a treatment available quickly.
"We developed at least a cocktail approach to look at how we can combine effective antibiotics, many times with no intrinsic individual activity, to really combat resistance, destroy Klebsiella pneumoniae and different gram-negative pathogens and really suppress resistance," he says.

Thousands of people die each year because there is no treatment for what are now called super bacteria. Tsuji says new antibiotics would help, but they are years away. That is why this cocktail approach, along with making sure doctors locally are aware of the resistance problem.