Microbes Outsmarting Man Through Anti-Microbial Resistance

The Amrita School of Biotechnology (ASBT) made its initial foray into the Antimicrobial research arena in 2014 after having been selected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for the Reinvent the Toilet Grand Challenge Award, to address the problems of infection and smell in waste water. After having successfully delivered on the objectives of this project the Gates Foundation in 2019 promoted a second round of funding for ASBT in collaboration with Columbia University, New York, USA and the University of Durban, South Africa, for metagenomic profiling of sewage as a global initiative. In 2018, ASBT teamed up with University of California, San Diego and the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS) to address the global Antimicrobial Resistance problem. In a multi-crore project funded by the Tata Trust. The study aims to harness novel approaches to tackle the problem of multidrug resistant microbes and attempt to reverse resistance to sensitivity

Over the past decade, ASBT researchers have had fruitful collaborations with Dr. Victor Nizet and his group at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Diego in attempts to decipher the mechanism of action of natural products in blocking the action of pathogenic microorganisms by stripping the organisms of their virulence traits and reducing their infectivity. This joint effort has resulted in numerous co-authored publications in prestigious peer- reviewed journals including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Nature Scientific Reports and more recently the America Society of Microbiology publication mSphere. The study published in mSphere (Jan 2021) highlights the isolation and characterization of a novel bacteriophage a bacterial virus AM.PZ capable of infecting and killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa a WHO classified critical priority pathogen, bringing into the realm of distinct possibility, the concept of effective bacteriophage therapy for control of bacterial infections.

In keeping with the WHO initiative to host the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week ( Nov 18 – 24, 2020) the School of Biotechnology hosted a One day International Colloquium ALARM (Amrita Legion for Antimicrobial Resistance Management). The objective of the colloquium was to spread awareness of the AMR problems among the community and especially in Healthcare settings. The article entitled ‘Anti-Microbial Resistance – The Next Pandemic, authored by ASBT researchers which appeared in the Economic Times (Dec 30, 2020) conveyed a pertinent message that along with other global challenges that threaten human existence and the planet, global cooperation is an absolute necessity to reduce the evolution and spread of AMR as the next pandemic in the making.