Rutgers Team Awarded Contract by CDC to Better Understand, Combat Fungal Infections


A team of researchers led by David S. Perlin, PhD, at the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI), a unit of the New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers University, has been awarded a $300,000 contract by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate genetic mechanisms and factors fueling emergence of antifungal drug resistance in the clinic by the common fungal pathogen Candida glabrata.

Fungal infections are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among individuals with compromised immune systems due to cancer, transplantation, AIDS, burns or other underlying conditions. Treatment options are already highly limited and the emergence of drug resistance can be devastating. The problem is particularly acute for the fungal pathogen Candida glabrata, a type of yeast that rapidly develops resistance during therapy.

This contract award is in response to the CDC’s call for proposals under a Broad Agency Announcement, Advanced and Innovative Solutions to Improve Public Health, directed at the “understanding and prevention of antibiotic-resistant organism transmission and emergence.”

According to Perlin, lead investigator and executive director of PHRI, “The emergence of drug resistant fungal infections, like antibiotic resistance in bacteria, is a serious clinical concern for severely ill patients. Understanding the clinical and biological factors that promote drug resistance and developing strategies to prevent it are major health priorities.”

The Perlin laboratory at PHRI is among the world leaders in seeking to understand mechanisms of antifungal drug resistance and factors promoting their emergence. In this new initiative, the Perlin lab will partner with Shawn Lockhart, PhD, director of the Fungal Reference Laboratory and team lead of the Antifungal Laboratory, Mycotic Diseases Branch at the CDC, and others to investigate genetic factors in strains of Candida glabrata contributing to global antifungal resistance. They will also assess a new rapid diagnostic test designed to detect antifungal drug resistance.

“Combatting fungal infections remains a major unmet medical need and the emerging issues of drug resistance impose even steeper barriers to overcome these infections among the critically ill,” Perlin said. “The CDC, with this program and others, is playing a major role in helping to thwart this growing problem.”

The Public Health Research Institute is a 75-year-old biomedical research center focused on infectious diseases research. It is an operating unit of New Jersey Medical School, which is part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

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