Contact Information:
Professor Gary Dmitrienko
Department of Chemistry
University of Waterloo
Waterloo ON N2L 3G1
Phone: 519-888-4642

About us

Addressing the challenge of antibiotic resistance requires a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses research at all levels and takes advantage of synergistic research strengths across international boundaries. Since 2008, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) have been collaborating to bring Canadian and UK researchers together around the problem of antibiotic resistance.

In 2011, as a result of this partnership, two large-scale teams of experts have received funding through a four-year investment of $4 million and £2 million. The consortia combine the research strengths of both countries and add a new momentum to the existing work in Canada and the UK.

One of these teams, the Canada-UK Team in Bacterial Resistance to Beta-Lactam Antibiotics, led by Gary Dmitrienko of the University Waterloo (Canada) and Tim Walsh of the University of Cardiff (UK), is studying the hard-to-treat Gram-negative bacterial infections, such as E. coli NDM-1, that are a major cause of hospital-acquired infections. The heads of the other collaborating research groups in this team in Canada and the UK are listed under Team Members.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are increasing with growing numbers of susceptible individuals in aging populations. Antibiotic-resistant HAIs are more dangerous and difficult to treat. So-called Gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli cause many thousands of HAIs each year. The beta-lactams, such as penicillin, are the most important antibiotics for HAIs caused by these organisms. Since Gram-negative bacteria have become resistant to most other antibiotics, carbapenems (the most powerful beta-lactams) are now the most important treatment for these infections. Carbapenem resistance in Gram-negative bacteria has been relatively rare, and has usually arisen in species that cause relatively few HAIs. However, this situation has now changed: carbapenem-resistant strains of several Gram-negative bacteria, including E. coli, (many carrying a gene called NDM-1) are spreading rapidly worldwide. As there are no new drugs for antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, infections by these organisms are consequently very hard to treat. We aim to develop a new treatment for HAIs caused by carbapenem-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Penicillin-resistant Gram-negative bacteria can be treated by combining a beta lactam antibiotic such as a penicillin with a drug that blocks the resistance mechanism, but it is not yet possible to block NDM-1 (or related gene products). We will design, make and test molecules that will block carbapenem-resistance mechanisms like NDM-1 and so enable carbapenems to kill resistant Gram-negative bacteria. A reliably active antibiotic against these organisms will transform the outlook for many patients with HAIs. We are also monitoring the spread, particularly in hospitals, of bacteria carrying NDM-1 and similar genes, and identify the most important types to use in our testing programme. We are further developing new methods to measure how molecules block NDM-1 function. These new methods and resources will benefit other efforts to overcome carbapenem-resistant HAIs.