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Reducing the global burden of infectious diseases through precision population health

2017 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition: Genomics and Precision Health
Genome Centre(s):
Genome Alberta
Project Leader(s):
Ian Lewis (University of Calgary), Deirdre Church (Calgary Laboratory Services)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a serious problem, with nearly half of all infection-causing bacteria now resistant to front-line drugs and superbugs emerging that cannot be killed by any drug. If these superbugs take hold in our health-care system, all kinds of procedures, such as hip replacements chemotherapy and organ transplants will become too risky and Canadians’ life expectancy could be reduced by as much as 20 years. Fighting these superbugs is a moral imperative if future generations are to benefit from the health care we take for granted.

One of the major reasons for this growing risk is the one-size-fits-all approach we take to treating infections, which encourages overuse of antibiotics. Different strains of bacteria can be radically different in the risks they pose, but the limitations of technology mean we can’t take these differences into account in making treatment decisions. Drs. Ian Lewis and Deirdre Church are leading an international team of experts to develop a new approach to treating infection. They will identify the significant biochemical traits present in different strains of bacteria, create an analytical system and database to predict the potential risks posed by different infections, and implement a new Precision Infection Management (PIM) strategy that will allow physicians to match each patient to the level of antibiotic therapy needed to cure the infection.

PIM will reduce antibiotic use and may preserve the lifespan of critical front-line drugs, while ensuring that people with particularly aggressive infections such as flesh-eating disease get aggressive therapy faster. PIM will allow these health improvements while saving money to the health-care system and, most importantly, saving lives.