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WSU helped lay the groundwork for CDC’s antimicrobial resistance network

Andrea Gomez, laboratory technician, identifies bacteria and tests for antibiotic resistance using the VITEK2 machine in Professor Doug Call’s laboratory on the WSU Pullman campus. There are no open liquids at the pictured stage of research.

Two ongoing Washington State University studies have been folded into a newly formed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention network to combat antimicrobial resistance in 38 countries.

According to the CDC, $22 million will be awarded to the organizations that make up two newly formed networks – the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Laboratory Response Network, to which the WSU studies are connected, and a Global Action in Healthcare Network.

Since 2017, the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has worked with the CDC to detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in hospitals and households in Kenya and Guatemala.

The WSU-CDC research, known as the Antimicrobial Resistance in Communities and Hospitals (ARCH) studies, is designed to estimate the proportion of people in these settings who are colonized with bacteria that harbor important antibiotic-resistance traits. These projects are also designed to identify factors that increase the likelihood that someone will be colonized by these bacteria, which in turn helps identify ways to reduce these events. 

WSU is the only organization in the western United States to be included in either network.

For more than two decades, WSU has been a leader in antimicrobial resistance research. Douglas Call, Regents professor, has led the recent ARCH studies in close collaboration with Sylvia Omulo (assistant professor), Brooke Ramay (assistant professor) and Guy Palmer (Regents professor) from the School for Global Health.

He said the most exciting part of the work is yet to come.

“There are six ARCH studies underway using very similar methodologies. Most of this work has proceeded to the point where we will soon be able to make international comparisons to understand how antimicrobial resistance varies across the world,” Call said.

Call said before these new comparisons can proceed, ongoing risk factor analyses and whole genome sequencing efforts need to be completed. He said the first 1,000 DNA extractions from Kenya are being delivered to the CDC in Atlanta this week and he expects they will generate over 4,000 whole genome sequences from the Kenya and Guatemala studies.

“These analyses will certainly get us deeper into the biology of these systems, but the most important insights will probably come from the risk factor analyses and genetic comparisons across and between partner studies.” 

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