Pharmacy faculty member and student researchers present at World Microbe Forum

Researcher studies in laboratory
George P. Allen, Pharm.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice

A research abstract authored by George P. Allen, Pharm.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice within the University of New England School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with four Pharmacy students, was recently accepted to the World Microbe Forum conference.

The inaugural conference, held virtually in June, was a collaboration between the American Society for Microbiology, Federation of European Microbiological Societies, and several other entities. More than 5,000 people attended at the virtual conference, which focused on such topics as new infectious pathogens, antimicrobial resistance, the role of microbes in climate change, synthetic and applied microbiology, and political advocacy related to microbiology and antimicrobials.

The UNE group’s research focused on the increasing antimicrobial resistance to first-line therapies for the bacterium Shigella sonnei (S. sonnei), one of many species of Shigella known to cause the intestinal tract infection shigellosis.

Symptoms of shigellosis include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people recover on their own; however, the infection can become serious in older adults or those with weakened immune systems. In fact, according to a 2019 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, drug-resistant Shigella species were listed as one of 11 microbes posing a “serious” threat to human health, with an estimated 77,000 drug-resistant infections per year.

The abstract, “In Vitro Evaluation of Resistance Selection in Shigella sonnei by Ceftriaxone, Ertapenem, Ciprofloxacin, Levofloxacin, and Moxifloxacin,” was written by Allen in collaboration with students Lilia Brooks (Pharm.D., ’23), Kristina Deao (Pharm.D., ’22), Katalin Gosling (Pharm.D., ’22), and Stephanie Hill (Pharm.D., ’22).

The research group used in vitro testing of the antimicrobial drugs ceftriaxone, ertapenem, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin to detect the likelihood of resistance by S. sonnei to any of the drugs.

The researchers found that ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin may restrict the development of resistance in S. sonnei, but ceftriaxone and ertapenem do not show favorable pharmacodynamics and that they may actually promote resistance in S. sonnei. Further, they concluded that there is a need for novel antimicrobials for infections caused by drug resistant Shigella species.

“I appreciate every opportunity to share the results of my research, especially at international conferences. However, I am especially happy that the hard work of four of our Pharmacy students was able to be shared and that the students were able to attend this notable scientific conference,” Allen said of the experience.

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