Professor Paul Keller, Professor Stephen Pyne, Honours students Dale Glennan and Yuhan Wendy Cun, and PhD candidate Muni Mahadari. Photo by James Grabowski.
Research into better treatments for Clostridium difficile infection
It’s one of the most common healthcare associated-infections in hospitals and aged care facilities – Clostridium difficile also known as C. diff.
C. diff is a potentially life threatening gastro bug that affects people who have been prescribed antibiotics, particularly the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.
The problem with broad spectrum antibiotics is that they wipe out all gut bacteria so there are no healthy bugs to fight off the C. diff spore, it can then take over the gastric system and form an infection.
Lead research underway at the University of Wollongong (UOW) involving IHMRI affiliates is looking at new drug treatments to help treat and prevent C. diff infection from reccurring.
Professor Stephen Pyne says current drugs used to treat the infection are inadequate.
“Many patients end up having multiple treatments and in severe cases part of their bowel removed. We need a treatment that will kill off the C. diff whilst protecting healthy bugs in the gut,” said Professor Pyne.
C. diff spores are so resilient that despite taking other antibiotics to cure the infection, the spores surivive and cause repeated infections.
Professor Pyne added:
“We are developing new antibiotic drugs that mimic natural antibacterial peptides – the drugs work by ripping holes in the bacteria’s cell membrane which eventually kills them. We are trying to make the drugs smaller and therefore easier/cheaper to synthesize – we are also trying to make them more selective for the bacterial membranes.”
Once the molecules have been designed at UOW, they then get sent to the University of WA where they are tested against multiple bacterial strains. The effective drugs are then sent to Monash University in Melbourne for testing in animal models against C. difficile.
A grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council is funding the collaborative work between UOW, University of Western Australia and Monash University in Melbourne.
More on Clostidium difficile
- C. diff was responsible for approximately ½ million infections and 29,000 deaths in 2011 in the USA.
- C. diff exhibits a 9.3% mortality rate in patients with hospital-associated infections (i.e. they got sick in the hospital).
Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator
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