The bacteria Enterococcus can cause infections that typically target the digestive tract or bowel; if the bacteria spread, an abdominal abscess or urinary infection could result. Enterococcus also can invade the bloodstream, leading to meningitis, pneumonia or endocarditis — an infection of the heart valve. Typically the only people who become ill from this bacteria are the elderly and those who already have health issues, such as diabetes or chronic kidney failure. Enterococcus infections can be serious in these populations.
The bacteria are resistant to a number of antibiotics, but in the past, physicians were able to effectively treat Enterococcus infections with the drug vancomycin. However, during recent years, Enterococcus has become resistant to vancomycin treatment, and the new strain, known as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), is resistant to other antibiotics as well. It also is able to transfer its treatment-resistance abilities to unrelated bacteria such as MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Researchers at Wayne State University recently received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to study a novel antibiotic that may treat VRE infection and decrease mortality. This nearly $430,000 grant led by Michael J. Rybak, Pharm.D., M.P.H., professor of pharmacy practice and director of the Anti-Infective Research Laboratory in WSU's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, will provide a better understanding and treatment of this infectious disease.
According to Rybak, daptomycin, a novel lipopeptide antibiotic, shows great promise as a new therapy for VRE infections. "This research study aims to define the dose exposure breakpoint required for daptomycin to ultimately optimize patient response to treatment and prevent the emergence of resistance," he said.
Once Rybak and his team determine the optimal doses of daptomycin, the result will be greater bactericidal activity, prevention of resistance and preservation of daptomycin as a viable antibiotic for continued clinical use.