COVID-19 can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infections with deadly consequences. But the industry that researches and produces antibiotics to fight such illnesses has been upended — and the pandemic is only making things worse. Now, medical experts worry about the long-term health implications of not having cutting-edge antibiotics in the pharmaceutical pipeline. Per CIMAR Dir. Dr. Helen Boucher: “This need to have a robust and renewable pipeline of antibiotics has really never been greater.
A letter sent by the leadership of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) including board member, CIMAR Dir. Dr. Helen Boucher, as well as those from dozens of other organizations calls on the Trump administration to reverse its decision to bypass the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in “the collection and analysis of COVID-19 patient data.”
A new technology that combines high throughput imaging and machine learning could speed discovery of drugs to fight tuberculosis, which for generations has killed more people worldwide than any other disease caused by a single agent—4,000 people every day. “We urgently need shorter, more effective TB therapies, and MorphEUS enables us to screen through drug candidates, see how they actually affect the cell, and learn which drugs have unique ways to kill the M. tb,” says CIMAR’s Dr.Bree Aldridge.
Nearly 20,000 people have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts. Well over 500 have died. With the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations fast approaching in Massachusetts, WBUR’s Weekend Edition joined Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, to discuss where we are now on the infection curve and what to expect in the coming weeks.
CIMAR and Tufts Medical Center's Dr. Shira Doron Discusses What SARS-CoV2 Antibody Tests Might Reveal
Dr. Shira Doron, Core Faculty Member of CIMAR and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, answers questions about what the hospital is seeing in patients and what antibody tests available may show. She also discusses the anticipated surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Massachusetts and more.
Antibiotics make procedures including joint replacement, transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, and premature newborn care possible. Recent reports have warned of the dangerously failing antibiotic pipeline; on January 18, the World Health Organization issued an unprecedented warning, declaring that “only government intervention can fix the broken market for antimicrobial drugs.”
One surprising trait: Patients who seem to be recovering can suddenly crash. CIMAR’s Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said patients should also watch for chest pain, and advised anyone experiencing chest pain or breathing difficulty to head to the emergency room. “People need to really monitor themselves for the first week. After the first week, you’ll either get better or worse,” she says.
Most of the time, we can count on our clothes to offer us protection from the outside world. In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, it’s easy to see them as a potential threat — particularly if you’re not sure how you should be washing them. If you’ve arrived home from errands concerned about how long coronavirus live on your clothes, it may offer comfort that by staying vigilant, you can safely re-wear favorite pieces and dress how you please.
Calculations, Concerns, & Crisis: The struggle to find masks and gowns spurs local hospitals to make drastic decisions
CIMAR’s Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, was exhausted. Minute by minute, the supply numbers changed, donations came in, patient predictions soared. At this rate, if patient numbers doubled daily, staff would run out of masks in a matter of days. If the health system could go through fewer supplies each day, a slower burn rate, maybe they could last a few weeks.
CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher discusses the training that goes into being an infectious diseases specialist, as well as what ID clinicians such as herself are doing to diagnose, treat, educate, and protect the public in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Continue What We’re Doing as Long as Possible:" CIMAR's Dr. Shira Doron Says Social Distancing Must Continue
While some politicians, including the President, are looking to ease restrictions keeping people from work, CIMAR’s Dr. Shira Doron (an Attending Physician, Hospital Epidemiologist, and Antimicrobial Steward at Tufts Medical Center) says distancing needs to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic while medical professionals deal with a shortage of supplies.
CIMAR featured trainee, Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, has several tips including calling up any restaurant you plan on ordering from and asking specific questions about what they’re doing to deter the spread of coronavirus at all stages of the cooking and handling process.
With schools shut down across the Bay State for the next three weeks in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, parents are faced with the tough question of whether or not to let their kids socialize. CIMAR’s Dr. Helen Boucher is urging families to think small when it comes to playdates.
CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, and Dr. Joshua Barocas of Boston Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine joined WBUR to answer listener questions about COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus.
The number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts is climbing. CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Geographic Medicines and Infectious Disease at Tufts Medical Center, joined WBUR’s Morning Edition host Bob Oakes to help put the numbers in perspective.
In two new reports, the global health agency says only government intervention can fix the broken market for new antimicrobial drugs. “We can’t have more companies going bankrupt,” said CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. “If the pipeline remains this anemic, that’s going to have real implications for our patients.”
All manner of fancy ideas have been floated to kill the superbug, when what we’ve needed is a hero willing to go toe-to-toe with these pitiless, heavily-armored bacteria. And here it is: a seek-and-destroy motorized molecular drill that is activated by light to “spin at three million rotations per second” – and ruthlessly disembowel the enemy outright. Notably, the world’s first single molecule electric motor was developed at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences in 2011.
One of America’s biggest antibiotics specialists, Melinta Therapeutics Inc., filed for bankruptcy in late December, citing slow sales growth and high costs. Other makers might soon face a similar fate, saying their cash will run out before the end of 2020. “We don’t know the fate of those drugs for our patients,” said CIMAR Director Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “As a physician, that’s my biggest concern.”
Drug-resistant germs sicken about 3 million people every year in the United States and kill about 35,000, representing a much larger public health threat than previously understood, according to a long-awaited report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new estimates show that, on average, someone in the United States gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and every 15 minutes, someone dies.
“We see people from everyday life, who are young and otherwise healthy, who get a MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] infection on their skin,” says CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher. “We want to have diagnostic tools and medical treatments for problems we know we’re going to have,” she said. “But we also need to prepare for the kind of resistance that we could never predict. We know from history that bacteria and mother nature are smarter than we are.”
When Roxana Sudderth’s son, Trey, a healthy high school freshman, developed a sore on his foot after playing basketball, “it just looked like a small blister.” Doctors gave him antibiotics, but the pain persisted. Sudderth took him to the hospital where they told her he had a life-threatening infection, MRSA, a bacterium resistant to antibiotics. Over 19 days, his condition deteriorated until finally doctors told Sudderth it was time to take Trey off life support.
Researchers at Tufts’ Laboratory for Living Devices (L2D) link materials like silk and paper with technology, medicine, and diagnostics. CIMAR and L2D faculty member, Dr. Bree Aldridge, and her team are using biomaterials made of silk to engineer programmable diagnostic platforms—or “petri dishes of the future”—to fight antimicrobial resistance by gathering more detailed information about susceptibility to multiple drugs.
A new report suggests clinicians, public health professionals, and journalists need to rethink the way they talk about antimicrobial resistance to increase public understanding and promote action by policy makers. In this article, CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher acknowledges that while it is challenging issue to explain to the public, stakeholders haven’t done a great job of communicating the immediacy and severity of antimicrobial resistance.
Desperate to find new medicines against pathogenic microorganisms, scientists are turning to Crispr, which has typically been considered for macroscopic tasks: altering mosquitoes so they can’t spread malaria, editing tomatoes so they are more flavorful and curing certain genetic diseases in humans. Now researchers are harnessing Crispr to turn a bacterium’s machinery against itself, or against viruses that infect human cells.
Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez presented groundbreaking findings from her antimicrobial stewardship pilot study at IDWeek in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. The study showed a 20% decrease in antibiotic start rate in patients, potentially demonstrating the benefit of enhanced stewardship support by an expert on antibiotic use in long term care.
Experts say the problem of AMR is compounded by improper use of antibiotics by doctors, hospitals and patients, as well as by farmers and others in the agricultural sector (the drugs are commonly administered to livestock, as well as to humans). Check out this eye-opening panel discussion from CIMAR’s Dr. Helen Boucher and others.
The TWiM holobionts pay tribute to Stuart Levy, and reveal the remarkably diverse array of cyclic nucleotides synthesized by bacteria that likely mediate interactions with animal and plant hosts. Dr. Levy’s friends and colleagues, Drs. Elio Schaechter and Michele Swanson, join the discussion.
Stuart B. Levy, a key inspiration for CIMAR and an Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at the Tufts University School of Medicine, died following an extended illness on September 4th. Dr. Levy’s pioneering research and impassioned advocacy raised awareness of the danger of antibiotic resistance, He was 80. Colleagues, friends and family remember Dr. Levy in this piece from TuftsNow.
Actually, there is a human vaccine for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), but it has never been approved for public use. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases—the military medical research institute at Fort Detrick in Maryland—developed a human EEE vaccine in the mid-1980s. Tufts Cummings School Professor Sam Telford, an expert on infections spread by mosquitoes and ticks, explains.
Tufts Cummings Vet School Hosts Symposium on "Engaging Veterinarians to Advance Human and Animal Health"
Nearly 600 veterinary students from the U.S., Canada, and beyond attended the 30th National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, hosted by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The meeting featured topics on critical care, antimicrobial resistance, regenerative medicine, cancer biology, infectious diseases, and pathways to research career development.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for highly drug-resistant tuberculosis, the world’s leading infectious cause of death. The antibiotic, called pretomanid, was developed by a nonprofit group called TB Alliance at a time when few companies are investing in the expensive and unprofitable endeavor of creating next-generation antibiotics. CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher shares her insights.
New England has some of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country. In 2017, there were more than 400 confirmed and probable cases in Massachusetts. In Maine, the number of confirmed and probable cases was more than 1,800. Now, a unique project aims to stop the disease in its tracks by going straight to the source.
“This novel, low-cost technology requires no behavior change or effort by users–safe water comes straight out of the tap,” says CIMAR’s Dr Amy Pickering, who led the research. “This point-of-collection approach to water treatment could be a transformative strategy for reducing gastrointestinal disease burden in low-income urban communities.”
According to CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher and others, the U.S. should have had a nationwide network to monitor for the next viral outbreak or biological threat a decade ago. Instead, public health leaders make do with a patchwork system while waiting for the Department of Health and Human Services races to get its integrated network in service.
Shortly after the FDA directive mandating that any antibiotics for honeybees be prescribed by veterinarians, Tufts Cummings School offered a sold-out continuing-education bee medicine workshop for practicing veterinarians. Tufts hopes to offer more training for veterinarians in the near future.
Not long ago, Achaogen Inc. was flying high. In early 2017, the drugmaker’s market capitalization soared above $1 billion on high hopes for its new medicine, an antibiotic targeting complicated urinary-tract infections. But in April—less than a year after the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration—Achaogen filed for bankruptcy.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) treasurer Dr. Helen Boucher, FIDSA, has urged lawmakers to support and expand federal efforts to stabilize the antibiotic market, spur the development of new infection-fighting drugs and protect existing ones in testimony before House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security.
The House Oversight subcommittee on national security convened experts last week to discuss biodefense — and the focus was on the threat of antimicrobial resistance. A bug doesn’t have to be a weapon to be deadly. “We have the sad duty of sending people to hospice because we don’t know how to treat their infections,” CIMAR’s Dr. Helen Boucher told the panel.
“Antibiotic infections pose serious threats to our national security,” said Dr. Helen Boucher, director of the Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance at Tufts University. “Resistant pathogens complicate our soldiers’ combat wounds, increasing risk of limb loss and death, and compromise our military combat readiness and effectiveness.”
CIMAR Epidemiologist Maya Nadimpalli, PhD, Describes Efforts to Document Antibiotic Resistance in Developing Countries
As an epidemiology postdoc at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Maya Nadimpalli became interested in antibiotic resistance among young children in low-income countries. Now at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, Nadimpalli shares the opportunities and challenges of studying public health in developing nations in this Nature Careers Q&A.
The FDA has approved a new indication for Merck’s ceftolozane/tazobactam (Zerbaxa), allowing for the drug to be used to treat hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. Contagion® spoke with CIMAR’s Yoav Golan, MD, attending physician and associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, about what this could mean for patients.
In the latest of a string of high-profile cases in the U.S., a cocktail of bacteria-killing viruses successfully treated a cystic fibrosis patient suffering from a deadly infection caused by a pathogen that was resistant to multiple forms of antibiotics. Curing infections is great, of course. But what about using these bacteria-killing viruses to prevent infections in the first place?
Joining Forces for Good: Tufts CIMAR and the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute Encourage Multidisciplinary Collaboration.
CIMAR and CTSI are just two of the exciting initiatives that embody Tufts’ commitment to enhancing multi-disciplinary collaboration. Each brings together investigators and clinicians from across the medical school, the university, and Tufts Medical Center to solve pressing real-world problems with a One Health approach.
“We’re seeing healthy young people with urinary tract and skin infections that we don’t have a pill for,” says Helen Boucher, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “And we may not be able to perform organ transplants, and even routine surgeries like joint replacements. We should all be scared.”
Predicting TB's Course: CIMAR's Gillian Beamer Hopes to Unlock Why the Bacterium Affects Individuals Differently
Beamer plans to identify and test both proteins in blood and lung tissue that accurately determine disease categories and DNA sequences on chromosomes that accurately correlate with these disease outcomes. “Our goal is to generate testable models that can predict the outcome of infection before disease occurs,” Beamer said.
Medical researchers have known for decades that the pipeline for new drugs to stave off bacterial infections would one day run dry. That day is now at hand. “The crisis has already arrived. We are in an era now when doctors like me have no effective antibiotics for some of their patients,” says CIMAR Director Dr. Helen Boucher.
Public health experts are calling for new incentives to reward companies for bringing drugs that are effective against resistant strains to market. Achaogen Inc. spent 15 years racing to develop antibiotics against resistant superbugs such as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, a strain that can kill up to half the people it attacks. But as a business, it’s a failure. The drug, Zemdri, lacked sales in its first six months on the market == less than $1 million. Achaogen filed for bankruptcy in April.
Late last year, a retirement community in Vermont was quarantined after an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria swept through the facility, sickening 70 seniors. In pediatric oncology wards, children beating cancer are increasingly felled by drug-resistant bacteria and fungal infections. Every week, we hear more stories of infections that have become untreatable due to resistance. Such alarms, once rare, are becoming more commonplace. The time to fix the problem is now, before it’s too late.
Drug-resistant diseases are hospitalizing and killing people across the world. To fight this crisis, researchers and physicians from Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center are bringing together their unique skillsets under one umbrella: The Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance.
“We’re worried that Achaogen is not alone, and that we will see the fall of other small antibiotic manufacturers,” said Helen Boucher, MD, director of the Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance and treasurer of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). “And we’re worried about the danger this could present for our patients.”
Over the past year we’ve watched two troubling trends escalate. First, patients increasingly face — and their doctors struggle to treat — infections that do not respond to existing antibiotics. Second, major pharmaceutical companies are backing away from developing new antibiotics.
Stopping Cholera in Its Tracks: Testing Bacteriophages as a Way to Halt the Spread of the Deadly Disease
Cholera strikes almost 3 million people each year worldwide. Tufts/CIMAR researchers are developing a treatment to prevent its spread, using viruses to attack the bacterium that causes the disease.
Antimicrobial Resistance Fighters: CIMAR is cracking down on one of the biggest global health concerns
Antimicrobial resistance is a global catastrophe, leading to 700,000 deaths annually around the world. Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center are heeding the call with the new Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (CIMAR)…
Tufts-Led Study Compares Gender-Specific Expression of Antibiotic Resistance Genes During Active Gonorrhea Infection
The World Health Organization estimates that 78 million people worldwide are infected with gonorrhea each year…
Given an increasingly difficult funding climate, finding the research strengths of the university and focusing resources on those areas is a priority for Tufts. After a year-and-a-half consultative process involving researchers from across the university, five thematic priority areas emerged. …
The Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (CIMAR) hosted its first event last month to introduce the Center to the local scientific community and to offer a platform for investigators and clinicians to showcase their research and promote collaborations.
Tufts prides itself on being a distinguished research university, providing students with opportunities to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world. …
IDSA announces Tufts Medical Center Among Recipients of Antimicrobial Stewardship Centers of Excellence Designation
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) announced today the recipients of its Antimicrobial Stewardship Centers of Excellence (CoE) designation. …