Ahead of the Game

New germ models help tackle the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


As if we need another reason to worry, the CDC has identified antimicrobial resistance as an “urgent global health threat.” 

Fortunately, a research team at UVA Health has discovered a solution to stem the tide of antibiotic-resistant germs, which served as a contributing factor in the deaths of five million people worldwide in 2019. The United States sees more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections each year.

The research team, led by Jason Papin, Ph.D, is developing computer models of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two multi-drug resistant bacteria that infect thousands of Americans every year. These germ models will illuminate the process by which the bacteria becomes antibiotic-resistant. Then the team can solve the problem.

The models allow the researchers to identify shared traits in the bacteria in order for the researchers to pinpoint the common links between the germs that are prone to developing antibiotic resistance.

Of his findings, Papin says, “While the development of antibiotic resistant infections is clearly an incredibly important concern, we’re optimistic that this research direction will foster new ideas on how to deal with this healthcare challenge.”

On the efficacy of the germ models his team created, he applauded his team’s use of technology to advance critical health solutions throughout the world. He says, “Computer modeling is fundamentally changing so many aspects of our lives. We’re excited to be a part of shaping how computational tools can tackle problems in health and to better understand biology.


This article originally appeared in our February 2024 issue.

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