News Release

Jitender Mehla receives National Institutes of Health Grant to combat multidrug resistant bacteria

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Oklahoma

Medical illustration of multidrug resistant P.aeruginosa © CDC/Jennifer Oosthuizen

image: This is a medical illustration of multidrug-resistant, Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, presented in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication entitled, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2019 (AR Threats Report). See the link below for more on the topic of antimicrobial resistance (AR). view more 

Credit: Medical Illustrator: Jennifer Oosthuizen

Antibiotic resistance is a global threat to human health that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, has challenged the efficacy of almost all available antibiotics.

“P. aeruginosa is a Gram-negative bacterium involved in several hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections and infections in cystic fibrosis patients and has been identified as a serious threat by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Jitender Mehla, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences.

Mehla received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the National Institutes of Health to study small molecule-based inhibition of multidrug efflux pump of P. aeruginosa. The proposed study would contribute to the development of antibacterials effective against multidrug resistant Gram-negative pathogens including P. aeruginosa.

“Although antibiotic resistance is a slow-growing pandemic, a report estimates it could cause nearly 300 million premature deaths by 2050,” Mehla said. “In 2017, multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa alone caused an estimated 32,600 infections that lead to 2,700 estimated deaths in the United States with an attributed health care cost of $767 million as per a 2019 CDC report.”

Mehla’s study, conducted in collaboration with Helen Zgurskaya, a George Lynn Cross Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at OU, and Dr. John Walker at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will explore promising new strategies to combat multidrug resistance.

“Drug discovery efforts are lagging because of the rapid rate of emerging multidrug-resistant pathogens and, therefore, ‘smart’ antibacterials and efflux pump inhibitors or small molecule inhibitors are urgently needed,” he added. “Our proposed research will reveal and elucidate the biochemical basis of efflux pump-mediated drug efflux and efflux inhibition and will contribute to the development of the next generation small-molecule inhibitors of multidrug efflux pumps.”

David Wrobel, dean of the OU College of Arts and Sciences said, “We are proud of the work of our faculty to actively engage in the efforts to advance the research goals of OU’s Lead On Strategic Plan and the core verticals of the OVPRP strategic research framework. This important study explores promising strategies to combat multidrug resistance, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges in modern medicine (and)…is an excellent example of how our faculty are positively transforming the future of health.”

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