Antimicrobial Resistance

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers antibiotic resistance to be one of the greatest threats to human health

Program Summary

The discovery of antibiotics is arguably one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. However, in less than 100 years microbes have developed resistance to almost every clinically relevant class of antimicrobial so far discovered, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest threats to human health. Only a limited number of new antibiotics have been developed in recent years and few new antibiotics are currently in the development pipeline. Treatment options for some infections are therefore becoming limited, particularly for extensively resistant (XDR) or pan-resistant (PDR) organisms that may be resistant to antibiotics of last resort.

Laboratory identification of antibiotic resistant organisms currently relies predominantly on culture based susceptibility testing or mass spectrometry.  However, since antibiotic resistance is usually associated with genetic traits such as the presence of particular genes or mutations, genomic techniques have the potential to revolutionize how laboratories can identify antibiotic resistant organisms and how infections caused by these pathogens are managed.

The objectives of this research priority are therefore to demonstrate the utility of using whole genome sequencing to enhance laboratory based identification of antibiotic resistant organisms, to help clinicians more rapidly and empirically make decisions on how best to treat patients, particularly those infected with slow growing or difficult to culture pathogens and to also improve our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that result in antimicrobial resistance, knowledge that can then be used for the rational design of new diagnostic tests and therapeutics.