Photo of testing antibiotics in the lab
Lab assistants test new drug compounds at the Duke Clinical Research Group. Researcher Vance Fowler, MD, said that for most bacterial infections, our diagnostic strategies are still fundamentally the same as they were 100 years ago. Photo courtesy Duke Medicine.

By Stephanie Soucheray

Antibacterial resistance isn’t a new problem, but it is a big one, affecting everything from hospital-acquired infections to childhood diseases. Though antibiotics have been lifesavers for more than 70 years, their rampant overuse has led to an increasing number of treatment-resistant bacterial infections.

On Monday, the National Institute for Health announced that Duke University, in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, will oversee a national research initiative on antibacterial resistance.

Vance Fowler Jr., professor of medicine at Duke, will lead the Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group (ARLG).

Antibacterial resistance is an enormous medical problem: locally, nationally and globally. It is an incredible honor for Duke and for me personally to lead the ARLG,” said Fowler.

A press release from Duke University said the school has been awarded $2 million in initial federal grant funding to start the program. Total funding for the award will reach at least $62 million through 2019.

Duke and UCSF will work together to create a network of researchers who will draft and implement an agenda to address antibacterial resistance and develop new ways to help patients.

Duke Medicine researcher Vance Fowler, Jr.
Duke Medicine researcher Vance Fowler, Jr.

Duke identified four areas for the new network to focus on: Gram-negative bacteria, such as E. coli; Gram-positive bacteria, such as MRSA; infection control, which will prevent antibiotic overuse; and diagnostics.

The goal of the ARLG is to address antibacterial resistance by improving treatment options for serious bacterial infections,” said Fowler. “While improved treatment options mean developing new antibiotics for tomorrow, it also means a smarter use of our existing antibiotics today.

“Ultimately, the best way to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections is to prevent them in the first place.”

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...