Boston, Mass. – Dr. Lawrence Mulcahy of Northeastern University’s Antimicrobial Discovery Center and Department of Biology, has received an esteemed Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the leading organization in the United States devoted to combating Cystic Fibrosis. The award will support Mulcahy’s work on multidrug tolerance of pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
“The role that persisters play in maintaining chronic bacterial infections that develop in the lungs of Cystic Fibrosis patients is currently unknown,” said Mulcahy, Postdoctoral Research Associate at Northeastern University Antimicrobial Discovery Center and Department of Biology at Northeastern University. “Persisters are dormant drug tolerant, not resistant, variants of the wild-type population. We have hypothesized that persisters are important in clinical infections, but to date have not done experiments to test this hypothesis.The funding from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will allow me to pursue this question for the first time.”
A major complication of Cystic Fibrosis is the acquisition of a chronic infection of the lungs by the opportunistic pathogen, P. aeruginosa. While antibiotic resistance may not present a problem during the initial stages of antibacterial therapy, most CF patients succumb to this pathogen as antibiotic therapy fails to eradicate P. aeruginosa completely.
Collaborating closely with Dr. Stephen Lory from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jane L. Burns of the University of Washington, Seattle and Seattle Children’s Hospital, Mulcahy will use the award to study how P. aeruginosa escapes eradication initially.
Cystic Fibrosis patients invariably acquire this pathogen and eventually die from the infection which is untreatable with current therapeutics. “The recalcitrance of the pathogen has been puzzling, since antibiotics can effectively suppress the growth of clinical isolate in vitro,” explained Mulcahy. “I plan to test the hypothesis that recalcitrance is due to the production of dormant persister cells by the pathogen, which survive antibiotic treatment, and then repopulate the infection.”
Founded in 1955, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is a nonprofit,donor-supported organization with the mission to assure the development of the means to cure and control cystic fibrosis and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.
Mulcahy will conduct his work at the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University under the mentorship of Dr. Kim Lewis, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center.
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Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.