Canada, U.K. Partner Up to Protect Canadians

GUELPH, Ontario November 14, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

Leading researchers from the United Kingdom and Canada — including a University of Guelph professor — will tackle the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance with funding from Ottawa and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council.

The funding was announced today in Waterloo, Ont., by Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology.

“Antibiotic resistance is a serious challenge facing Canadians and our health-care system,” Goodyear said. “Our government is pleased to support this important collaborative effort to develop new strategies and tools to protect Canadians from antibiotic-resistant infections.”

Two research teams have been funded through the Canada/U.K. Partnership on Antibiotic Resistance, a collaboration between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the U.K. Medical Research Council.

The Canadian scientists will receive $500,000 a year for four years from the CIHR. Their U.K. counterparts will receive the same amount from the U.K. Medical Research Council.

One research team is co-led by U of G Prof. Anthony Clarke, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Chris Dowson of the University of Warwick.

The team hopes to find new weapons against resistant bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The group will study pathogens that cause many hospital- and community-acquired infections, including organisms that are increasingly impervious to existing antibiotics.

“Millions of people die each year from bacterial infections, and tens of millions suffer from the consequences of these infections,” Clarke said. “Every 20 seconds, someone dies of tuberculosis alone.”

Bacteria have rigid, insoluble cell walls made of peptidoglycan, or linked sugars and amino acids, Clarke explained. By targeting proteins that cement those building blocks together, the researchers hope to stop cell walls from forming and kill the bacteria.

Many important pathogenic bacteria have evolved to resist antibiotics. “We need to fight back,” Clarke said.

His research team includes scientists from Guelph, the University of British Columbia, McMaster University and Laval University. Seven researchers from five universities in the United Kingdom are also involved.

The second team to receive funding today is led by Gary Dmitrienko of the University of Waterloo and Tim Walsh of the University of Cardiff. They hope to develp a new treatment for hospital-acquired infections caused by bacteria resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics.