Ever wonder what healthcare would look like if there were no antibiotics? Where the use of antibiotics has been commonplace for almost eighty years, it is hard to imagine but we are seeing glimpses of this scenario now in modern medicine. Menacing drug resistant bacteria that are known in the clinical microbiology laboratory by their acronyms, such as MRSA, CRE and ESBLs (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and extended spectrum b-lactamase producing Enterobacteriaceae), are compromising treatments for bacterial infection. In time, these superbugs threaten to usher in a post-antibiotic era unless we can stop them.
The problem is that there have been no truly new antibiotics discovered in more than three decades. And bacteria are driven by natural selection to become resistant to antibiotics. Indeed, multidrug resistance is thought to be due in large part to the limited repertoire of drugs that eradicate bacteria with a narrow range of mechanisms. So the answer is to find new ways to kill bacteria but this has proven to be difficult. We simply don’t understand the complex biology that underpins bacterial survival.
Students and post-doctoral fellows in the Brown Lab are working to explore uncharted aspects of bacterial systems. They are searching for the Achilles heels of drug-resistant superbugs using tools of biochemistry, molecular genetics and chemical screening to probe the complex biology that underlies bacterial survival strategies. Indeed, Brown Lab researchers have enjoyed some exciting breakthroughs in recent years studying poorly understood aspects of cell envelope synthesis and nutrient metabolism. The goal of course is to contribute fresh directions for new antibacterial therapeutics and beat back the tide of drug resistance.