Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and NTD drug development

Effective drugs for infectious diseases are core to successful treatment as well as control of pathogen spread on the way to elimination. Almost all pathogens, from bacteria to parasitic helminths, have evolved mechanisms to evade the effects of such drugs, causing drug resistance and treatment failure. Thus, there is a pressing need in the development of new drugs with novel targets. Because the drivers of drug resistance of bacteria as well as of that of many NTDs are manifold, tackling this problem requires an interdisciplinary One Health approach, to include not only human health, but also veterinary and environmental health.

Key questions

Schistosomiasis, considered the most important NTD, has an enormous impact on public health and economy of developing countries and is targeted by the WHO in its 2021–2030 roadmap for elimination. The only available drug currently used in large-scale mass drug administration against schistosomiasis is praziquantel (PZQ), which solely targets the adult worms but has no effect on early migrating larval stages. However, reinfection is a common observation in endemic regions, and, with the large-scale administration, the development of resistance to PZQ in the field is considered imminent. Thus, the call is out to develop new drugs and/or identify new drug targets. In line with this, we have recently developed a novel and cell-free in vitro platform that allow to identify and test the efficacy of novel host-derived molecules with schistosomicidal activity on various developmental stages (skin, lung, liver) of the parasite. We also utilize our in vitro screening platform in collaboration with industrial partners to identify the targets of their novel compounds using genetic approaches. This characterization is an important part of the next era of Schistosomiasis therapy with an improved understanding of the targets leading to better administration decisions and day 1 monitoring of resistance.

Current projects in AMR and NTD drug development

  • Investigating the effect of heavy metals on carbapenem resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii
  • Tackling antimicrobial resistance among refugees and internally displaced communities by improving access to quality antibiotics
  • Characterization of host-derived schistosomicidal molecules for novel drug development