Michael Maiden, a Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine student and doctoral candidate in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, was recently awarded a traineeship from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help pursue his research of the disease.
Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic disease that causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. Bacteria can grow in this mucus and over time, prove deadly. The biggest problem for CF patients is the mucosal bacteria, which form aggregates of cells that bind together to create a substance that surrounds and protects the harmful bacteria. This often means lifelong infection for the patient.
Existing treatments can reduce the bacterial population, but the infection almost always returns, due to a small portion of the bacterial cells, aptly named persisters. The cycle repeats, each time causing further organ damage, until eventually there is not enough tissue left to function.
Maiden and his microbiology professor Christopher Waters believe that they can target and destroy persister cells using a combination of two existing drugs working together in a new way.
They have found that combining triclosan, a commonly used antimicrobial found in such products as toothpaste, soaps and detergents, enhances the persister-killing ability of tobramycin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat CF bacterial infections.