A researcher from the College of Medicine, Dr. Kyle Rohde, is working on the development of a new antibiotic to treat tuberculosis (TB) and related lung infections. Dr. Rohde, an infectious disease expert, has received a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create antibiotics that specifically target mycobacterial infections caused by pathogens like Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium abscessus.
TB is a serious global health concern and was responsible for infecting 11 million people in 2021, making it the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. The infection spreads through airborne droplets, primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of TB include coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, fever, and chills. If left untreated, TB can be fatal.
While only 1 in 10 infected individuals develop symptoms in the short term, those who don’t get sick right away can still develop latent infections and become carriers for years. If the infection remains undetected and untreated, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread to different parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, and liver.
TB infections are more prevalent in certain regions, such as India, China, sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, and Brazil. The disease can easily spread in crowded populations.
The current treatment for TB involves a combination of drugs taken for four to six months or even longer for drug-resistant strains. Treatment for M. abscessus infections is even more challenging and requires IV antibiotics. However, due to side effects and the length of these treatment regimens, many patients fail to complete their treatment.
Dr. Rohde’s research focuses on developing new treatments that can shorten the duration of treatment, target drug-resistant strains, and minimize side effects. He is collaborating with chemist Dr. John Buynak and biochemist Dr. Leighanne Basta to synthesize and test “next-gen” carbapenem drugs. These drugs will be optimized to specifically target TB and related pathogens.
The team aims to create a potent antimycobacterial agent that can be taken orally. They will test the new drug in mice models to evaluate its effectiveness against TB and related infections. While it may take years for the new antibiotic candidate to reach clinical trials, Dr. Rohde is hopeful that this research will contribute to the discovery of improved treatment options for these difficult-to-treat infections.