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

The drivers that are turning AMR into a global threat are manifold. A strong contributor is the overall increase of antibiotic consumption in humans, mainly by false practices such as misuse or unnecessary self-medication, or mass-prescription by physicians. In addition, access to good-quality antibiotics (or the lack thereof) play an important role. In order to prevent resistance, a certain concentration of a drug needs to be reached in the blood and then kept over a defined period of time. Counterfeit antibiotics often tend to have fewer active metabolites, leading to decreased drug levels. Approximately 70% of the consumption of antibiotics deemed medically important for human health are used in livestock mainly for animal husbandry rather than for the treatment of infections, contributing massively to increasing rates of antibiotic resistance. Finally, contamination of the environment constitutes a major problem: subsequent pollution of water bodies by effluents and wastes from pharmaceutical industries or the use of heavy metals in agriculture (e.g., copper as a bactericide or fungicide) contribute to the rise in antimicrobial resistance rates. Interestingly, high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, lead, and zinc have been observed in the environment of areas of prolonged conflict due to heavy artillery projectiles, destroyed infrastructure, and bomb shells. Thus, these are currently being investigated as additional drivers for AMR in our lab.

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