CDC Awards $14 Million to Studies on Antibiotic Resistance and Microbiome Health


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded scientists combating antibiotic resistance with more than $14 million in funding for new research and innovations by universities, nonprofits, and the business community.

Combating antibiotic resistance requires thinking outside the [pill]box, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] has awarded scientists doing just that with more than $14 million in funding for new research and innovations by universities, nonprofits, and the business community.

The new grants are all part of the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative, the agency’s effort to provide support to state and local public health, academic, healthcare, and veterinary partners in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The fight has many fronts and the CDC has announced new investments in research to discover and develop novels ways to prevent antibiotic-resistant infections and their spread, including applied research on the role of the microbiome.

It is known that on our skin and inside our gut, mouths, respiratory systems, and urinary tracts live a complex community of naturally-occurring and beneficial germs. As strange as it may be to think of bodies as their own ecosystems, it is a helpful way to visualize the workings of the human microbiome. The diverse mix of microorganisms the human body supports in turn help keep individuals healthy by fighting pathogens that they come in contact with and protect them from infection. When this array of microflora is unable to stop pathogens, antibiotics taken to stop an infection can wipe out or disrupt the good bacteria along with the bad. Without those good bacteria, an important line of defense is lost and individuals become more susceptible than ever to dangerous infections from drug-resistant superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile, and Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae.

With this in mind, the new announcement from the CDC includes funding for more research looking into the microbiome to identify effective public health approaches that protect people, their microbiomes, and the effectiveness of antibiotics; it’s all part of a push for new solutions to fighting antibiotic resistance that emphasize prevention and a rollback on unnecessary antibiotic application. “Understanding the role the microbiome plays in antibiotic-resistant infections is necessary to protect the public’s health,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. He continued, “We think it is key to innovative approaches to combat antibiotic resistance, protect patients, and improve antibiotic use.”

In collaboration with researchers and investigators, the CDC hopes to learn more about how antibiotics disrupt a healthy microbiome, how a disrupted microbiome puts people at risk, and how antibiotic stewardship can protect the microbiome; this includes investigating new strategies to protect and restore the microbiome, predict the risk of disruption from antibiotic exposure, test microbiome measurements, and tailor antibiotic stewardship to each patient’s own microbiome.

According to a study cited by the CDC, at least 30% of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary. CDC officials along with those at agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have ramped up efforts to cut back on this excess of 47 million prescriptions, which is largely driven by antibiotics that are incorrectly prescribed by doctors to patients suffering from viral infections such as common colds, sinus infections, and the flu. An antibiotic drug can only tackle bacterial infections and will do nothing to alleviate illnesses that are viral.

This new push to study the role of the human microbiome and antibiotic resistance will include $560,000 toward a study by University of California at Berkeley researchers on the role of food-borne diseases, a $2 million grant to four teams of Washington University researchers, and funding toward a clinical trial by Synthetic Biologics for an oral drug designed to protect the gut microbiome from the unintended effects of certain beta-lactam antibiotics.

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