The Cornell Center for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education has been newly established, uniting various experts in epidemiology, microbiology, sociology, among other fields to combat the critical issues of antimicrobial resistance.
Antimicrobials are chemicals typically used to treat infections by killing pathogenic bacteria — bacteria that cause disease — and other microbes, such as parasites, viruses and fungi.
However, overuse of antimicrobials results in numerous microbes adapting and developing resistance to them. Additionally, antimicrobials can kill beneficial bacteria within our body that provide defenses against disease. Thus, antimicrobial-resistant pathogens become highly dangerous to our health, as fewer antimicrobials are effectively fighting against these microbes.
According to Prof. Kyu Rhee, immunology and microbial pathogenesis, co-director of the Cornell Center for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education, AMR is a worldwide problem with significant health impacts on human, animal and environmental welfare. In the United States, more than 2.8 million infections due to antimicrobial-resistant bacteria as well as 35,000 subsequent deaths occur each year.
The center was founded through collaboration between Cornell faculty from both Ithaca and New York campuses interested in AMR. The Office of the Provost’s Radical Collaboration Task Force recognized AMR as an important topic of interest and Cornell’s unique strength in combining various disciplines in life sciences and social sciences to find solutions to AMR.
“The broad goal of the center is to promote multidisciplinary research and education in antimicrobial resistance that will not only lead to the creation of innovative solutions but also more broadly increase awareness and advocacy of antimicrobial resistance,” Rhee said.
To achieve these goals, the AMR Center aims to initiate cooperation between faculty and trainees through events and programs such as an annual symposium, a seminar series, lectures, seed grant programs, and travel fund programs.
The AMR Center is also hosting an inaugural symposium on Mar. 22 and 23 at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. The event will feature professors and experts from Cornell University, Harvard University and Boston University.
As for misinformation and public education of AMR, Rhee shared that science communication will be further emphasized by communication science faculty in CALS. Prof. Renata Ivanek, epidemiology, steering committee member of the Cornell AMR Center, believes that public engagement is another approach to misinformation and education. Ivanek hopes that sharing the Center’s research with the public will promote awareness and action to resolve AMR spread.
Although the Cornell AMR Center has only been recently established, faculty members already have plans for their research and projects to tackle the challenges of AMR.
Prof. Ilana Lauren Brito, biomedical engineering, steering Center committee member, is pursuing her research in the gut microbiome and its impact on AMR. She also expresses interest in the factors and interplay that allows certain pathogenic microbes to thrive within the gut microbiome.
“We’re interested in the gut microbiome and antimicrobial resistance because it might serve as a reservoir for these pathogenic organisms,” Brito said. “The gut microbiome could [also] help keep down the abundances of these antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”
As for Ivanek, her research focuses on the social dimensions of antimicrobial use and AMR in food-producing animals. Ivanek aspires to help advance AMR research from a One Health perspective, which connects the health of people, animals, plants and their environment.
In addition, the Cornell Center has formed a partnership with the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability in order to support AMR interdisciplinary projects.
“I hope the Center will bring the local community and the world closer to Cornell faculty and make them more visible to the world in the domain of antimicrobial resistance, research, and education,” Ivanek said.