Adaptive resistance to aminoglycosides in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common genetic disorder among young children in Canada. CF affects the lungs and digestive system of almost 70,000 children and adults worldwide. A defective gene causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs leading to frequent lung infections and obstructs the pancreas stopping enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacteria commonly associated with both hospital-acquired infections and chronic lung infections in people with CF. Although these lung infections can be temporarily suppressed, they are never completely cured and are eventually fatal. Kristen Schurek is investigating how P. aeruginosa develops resistance to the class of inhaled antibiotics called aminoglycosides that are used to treat lung infections in CF patients. Schurek believes these antibiotics trigger the organism to adapt its genetic physiology causing small, incremental increases in resistance over time. As a result, the bacteria gradually develop the ability to persist in the presence of the antibiotics. She will determine how these antibiotics cause the bacteria to adapt, and which genes in P. aeruginosa contribute to antibiotic resistance. This knowledge could lead to better methods of administering antibiotics to prevent drug resistance in people with cystic fibrosis.