News & Events

A new center to combat growing antimicrobial resistance crisis

03/07/2019

Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center announced that they have united decades of experience and expertise in infectious disease research and clinical care to create the new Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (CIMAR) in order to more effectively address the rise and spread of dangerous superbugs. On March 18, Tufts CIMAR will host a symposium honoring Stuart B. Levy, M.D., a pioneer in fighting antibiotic misuse and resistance.

“As the rate of antimicrobial resistance continues to grow worldwide, drug-resistant microbes are increasingly affecting clinicians’ ability to care for patients,” said Helen Boucher, MD, co-director of Tufts CIMAR, director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program at Tufts Medical Center and clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. “Globally, we’ve had more and more cases in which we have to tell patients that they can’t have chemotherapy for their cancer or are not eligible for a needed organ transplant or hip replacement, because we can’t control their infection. This is the biggest reason we need to act immediately and decisively.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat to human health; 700,000 deaths worldwide—including approximately 23,000 in the United States alone—are attributed to AMR every year. The death toll has the potential to reach 10 million annually by 2050 if substantial progress is not made in developing new classes of antimicrobial drugs and limiting unnecessary antimicrobial drug usage. 

Fueled by microbiological, evolutionary, environmental and societal factors, antimicrobial resistance management and prevention requires a multidisciplinary response.

Tufts CIMAR will take a “One Health” approach—respecting the critical relationship between people, animals and the environment—in conducting research, formulating policy recommendations, and designing educational programs to combat multi-drug resistant infections. With its experts’ proficiency in research, patient care and health care policy, the center’s goal is to make a meaningful and enduring impact on the fight against AMR, locally, nationally and internationally.

The center has three founding priorities:

  • Investigate combination drug therapies that both treat infection and reduce the emergence of resistance in humans and animals. Some of this work will use the DiaMOND method, a framework to efficiently measure how multiple drugs act in combination, developed in the lab of Bree Aldridge, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular biology and microbiology and adjunct assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Tufts University;

  • Utilize tools from epidemiology, engineering and the social sciences to develop new methods for controlling and preventing the spread of AMR. This research will seek to inform the design and evaluation of antimicrobial stewardship strategies and shape policy development in the U.S. and abroad. Tufts Medical Center clinicians are already working with colleagues from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine on stewardship in companion animals and humans and other projects; and 

  • Develop educational programs for high school, college, graduate and professional students in order to increase AMR awareness and cultivate a future generation capable of responding to the crisis.This work will leverage established curricula from Tufts University’s Center for Translational Science Education.

Researchers from the School of Medicine, Cummings School, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, School of Engineering, School of Arts and Sciences, and School of Dental Medicine will work alongside colleagues at Tufts Medical Center, the principal teaching hospital of Tufts School of Medicine. Tufts CIMAR initially will be funded equally by the university and the Medical Center.

“We want to use Tufts CIMAR to get people talking to each other to see how our research interfaces,” said Ralph Isberg, Ph.D, co-director of Tufts CIMAR and professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the School of Medicine. “The goal then is to start collaborative projects that will allow us to make major contributions to attacking multi-drug resistant organisms.” 

Tufts CIMAR initially evolved out of the university’s strategic plan for research and scholarship, an effort to identify priorities that build on the university’s core areas of work and seek opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration in order to create innovative solutions to pressing societal and global challenges.  

“We wanted to identify projects that build on our existing strengths, enable collaboration and growth, and have the potential to develop innovative solutions,” said Anthony P. Monaco, MD, Ph.D, president of Tufts University. “With Tufts CIMAR, our researchers can unite their expertise and passion to devise a multifaceted response to AMR.”

“Antibiotic resistant superbugs are a clear and present threat to the future of health care delivery,” said Michael Apkon, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children. “We are honored and excited to help launch this critically important joint venture. We see it as our duty to exhaust every possible avenue in pursuit of long term solutions to this growing global crisis.”

The center builds on work done by School of Medicine professor emeritus Stuart B. Levy, MD, a long-time researcher-physician and advocate on the dangers of antibiotic misuse and resistance. Levy’s work centered on the mechanisms and control of drug resistance, in both bacterial and mammalian cells, and provided the first evidence that low-dose antibiotics in animal feed led to the rise of resistant bacteria that could transfer from farm animals to humans. Levy, who was also a staff physician at Tufts Medical Center, retired as professor of molecular biology and microbiology in 2018 after 47 years at the school.

On March 18, Tufts CIMAR will host the Stuart Levy Tufts CIMAR Symposium, bringing together Tufts researchers working across the field of antimicrobial resistance including Dr. Levy and his siblings Jay Levy, MD and Ellen Koenig, MD, both of whom conduct HIV research. The event will include a keynote by Dr. Lonnie J. King professor and dean emeritus, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ohio State University, and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria.

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About Tufts University
Tufts University, located on campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, Massachusetts, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.

About Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children
Tufts Medical Center is an exceptional, not-for-profit, 415-bed academic medical center that is home to both a full-service hospital for adults and Floating Hospital for Children. Conveniently located in downtown Boston, the Medical Center is the principal teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. The Medical Center features a level one trauma center with rooftop helipad, the largest heart transplant center in New England and a renowned research program, ranking among the top 10 percent of independent hospitals to receive federal research funding. A physician network of 1,800 New England Quality Care Alliance doctors represents our strong commitment to health in the community. Tufts Medical Center is a founding member of Wellforce. For more information, visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org