With help of grant, The Miriam takes aim at ‘superbugs’


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Researchers at The Miriam Hospital are receiving a $9.4 million grant to study a growing problem in the medical field in the United States: “superbugs,” which are drug-resistant pathogens, or bacteria that don’t get eradicated with conventional antibiotics.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the grant, officials at The Miriam announced Monday morning. Superbugs are such an urgent problem, researchers are already working with the grant.

“They are projected by 2050 — by the [World Health Organization] — to become the number one cause of mortality,” said Dr. Eleftherios Mylonakis, chief of infectious diseases at The Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital. “This is a grant that aims to put together a center for the discovery of new antimicrobial therapies.”

The Miriam will be a NIH Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), and Dr. Mylonakis will be chief investigator. The grant will support researchers from Miriam as well as Brown University, including Dr. Beth Fuchs, assistant professor of research for infectious diseases, who said they’ll be looking to identify new drugs that can work to inhibit superbugs.

The grant is for five years. Researchers will study what causes antibiotic resistance and will try to develop new antibiotics. It “can have a tremendous impact for patients, because a lot of times they will run out of what antibiotics can be used to successfully treat their condition and their condition will worsen,” said Dr. Fuchs.

While work has already begun, Dr. Mylonakis said they hope to be fully set up and operational within the next few weeks.

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