A New Approach to Fight Drug-Resistant Infections

November 2, 2017    |  

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 (UMSOM) 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.

Alan Cross, MD

Alan Cross, MD

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 UMSOM’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, Cross’ 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, Cross’ team discovered that preventing this inflammatory response helps the body’s immune system better fight infections.

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

Using 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.

“Dr. Cross’ research to develop an alternative approach for fighting these serious infections is critical and builds upon the research here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to address the growing and serious concern of antimicrobial resistance,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.