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Celia Schiffer weighs in on CDC report on antibiotic-resistant germs

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

noviembre 19, 2019
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Celia Schiffer, PhD

Antibiotic-resistant germs are rapidly developing around the world and a multipronged approach will be needed to combat this pressing public health threat, said drug resistance expert and investigator Celia Schiffer, PhD, in reaction to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the severity of the problem.

The CDC is warning that an estimated 2.8 million infections are resistant to treatment, contributing to 50,000 deaths a year in the United States. This is a marked increase from estimates in 2013.

“Pathogens are always evolving in response to drugs or the pressures of other microbes. Usually our own microbiome keeps these pathogens at bay, but when we are sick this barrier often breaks down,” said Dr. Schiffer, the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, and director of the Institute for Drug Resistance at UMass Medical School. “While the threat level of resistance increases, the pipeline of new antibiotics remains limited.”

She said hand washing, safe food handling, improved prescribing methods, scientific advances and research leading to new drugs are tools that can be used to combat the threat of antibiotic resistant germs.

The FDA established guidelines for the Limited Population Pathway for Antibacterial and Antifungal Drugs (LPAD pathway) to get experimental therapies to patients more quickly. To date, however, only two drugs have been approved through this mechanism.

The Schiffer lab seeks to tackle drug resistance in the initial design of new pharmaceuticals by using state-of-the art methods to leverage bacterial evolution and adaptation to preemptively avoid drug resistance.