New research set to address antibiotic resistance in S. pneumoniae diseases

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have begun research to understand how antibiotic resistance occurs in Streptococcus pneumoniae infections in a bid to ensure that patients receive effective drugs during treatment.

Streptococcus pneumoniae research 500Led by Dr Andrew Fenton in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, the project will bring together researchers from across science, medicine and the NHS to discover how antibiotic resistance occurs and how it can be prevented. 

The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumo), causes many diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis, which lead to millions of deaths every year. To prevent and treat these infections in hospitals and clinics, patients are given penicillin antibiotics, or drugs very similar to them. These drugs kill the bacteria growing inside the patient, combating the infection and curing the individual. But increasingly, strains resistant to antibiotics like penicillin are emerging across the world, threatening our treatment strategies and jeopardising patient outcomes.

This problem generates an urgent need to address penicillin resistance in pneumo to prevent patient deaths but in order to do this, we need to understand how resistance occurs in the first place.

This new £500,000 research project, funded by the Medical Research Council will identify and characterise the biological underpinnings of penicillin resistance in pneumo with the aim of finding ways to biologically ‘re-sensitise’ strains to antibiotics we routinely use in clinics.

Dr Andrew Fenton said: “For any antibiotic, bacterial growth processes are chemically targeted by the antibiotics which, on contact, effectively breaks an important biological system within the cells causing them to die which cures the patient.

“The ultimate aim is to measure the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment on strains during infections. Therefore, we are working closely with the Renshaw Lab who study infection models to allow us to understand what the antibiotic resistance means for the bacterial growth and the infection process.”

Sheffield has a proud history in tackling the global threat of antibiotic resistance. Former University of Sheffield scientist Howard Florey was instrumental in developing the first antibiotic, penicillin. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine alongside Sir Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Alexander Fleming in 1945. This vital work continues today through The Florey Institute for Host-Pathogen Interactions.

Academic staff:

Dr Andrew Fenton

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