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UC Berkeley Researchers Get $5.8 Million NIH Grant to Fight Drug-Resistant Microbes

UC Berkeley researchers will receive $5.8 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop tools to quickly spot and identify drug-resistant pathogens.

The Berkeley project is among nine announced on Thursday, April 9, by NIAID as part of the agency’s effort to develop diagnostics to rapidly detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. A total of $11 million was awarded to six academic institutions and three companies for the first of five years of funding.

Over the past 70 years, antimicrobials have become increasingly ineffective as organisms develop resistance to the drugs that are supposed to kill them. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2 million people are infected and 23,000 people are killed each year as a result of antibiotic-resistant microbes.

The UC Berkeley team consists of researchers from the School of Public Health and the department of bioengineering. Leading the team are Dr. Lee Riley, professor of infectious diseases, and Drs. Luke Lee and Niren Murthy, both professors of bioengineering.

Their goal is to develop a diagnostic system to determine in blood, urine, and other clinical samples the species of bacteria and its resistance to drugs in a matter of minutes. That would be a huge improvement over the current process, which can take up to three days and often involves sending patient samples to off-site labs.

“Delay in diagnosis not only contributes to increased patient mortality, but also to the wrong choice of drugs that can further select for drug resistance,” said Dr. Riley.

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