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Interprofessional WesternU Team Looks to Improve Antibiotic's Effectiveness

by Rodney Tanaka

December 16, 2010

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An interprofessional team of clinicians and scientists at Western University of Health Sciences has published encouraging results on the development of a more effective method for the delivery of the antibiotic vancomycin to patients suffering from hospital-acquired pneumonia due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The paper, which appears online in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, looks at liposome nanotechnology as a means to overcome inherent limitations of vancomycin, which has been the standard agent for combating MRSA pneumonia for more than 50 years.

“Even in the best of situations, vancomycin doesn’t penetrate well into lung tissue or the phagocytic white blood cells where the bacteria can hide out and lead to clinical failure or relapse,” said the paper’s lead author, Andrew Pumerantz, WesternU Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of Infectious Disease. “Simply increasing the doses of vancomycin given to patients cannot overcome either the drug distribution obstacle or the ‘creeping resistance’ to vancomycin that is emerging in many MRSA strains. Higher doses can lead to increased toxicity especially involving the kidneys. The idea is to encapsulate vancomycin within a liposomal carrier to promote penetration into infected phagocytic white cells called macrophages and thus better target the bug.”

This is seminal work of an ongoing discovery process for the WesternU team, which is composed of the College of Pharmacy’s Jeffrey Wang, Guru Betageri, Sunil Agnihotri, and Krishna Muppidi, along with Carlos Guerra and Vishwanath Venketaraman of the Department of Basic Medical Sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. The team is also studying pegylation-type surface modification of the liposomal vancomycin to prolong its circulation time in the blood. Their hope is to eventually bring this novel formulation of vancomycin to the bedside.

“This is an example of how a real-life global problem can be addressed by interprofessional collaboration between scientists and clinicians from different colleges and disciplines,” Dr. Pumerantz said. “This could serve as an example of how others can pursue similar collaboration to address and solve so many other problems that presently exist.”

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