Antibiotics have represented the primary line of defense for treating bacterial infections since 1935 when the first sulfur-containing compounds were introduced. The original antimicrobial substance isolated from the Penicillium fungus is the precursor of penicillin. Some more recently developed antibiotics are chemically designed.

Unfortunately increased use and mis-use of antibiotics has led to increased numbers of pathogenic bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics. Medical misuse of antibiotics - prescribing antibiotics for viral infections or failure of patients to complete treatment with the full regiment of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause infections that cannot be treated with some antibiotics. Infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria are very difficult to treat and can lead to death of the patient.

Antibiotic resistance can also result from bacteria being exposed to antibiotics in the environment. More than 70% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used as supplements to animal feed. The intestinal bacteria in the animals provided with such feed rapidly show resistance to the antibiotics and, in some cases, have transferred this resistance to pathogenic microbes the environment.

We will present a brief history of antibiotic use and discuss the medical and public policy factors that are, in part, responsible for increased antibiotic resistance in pathogenic microbes. We will then introduce a new generation of antimicrobial compounds that are derived from the bacteria's own genes that may be clinically useful to treat infections caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Paul Jackson

Paul Jackson received his Bachelor's of Science degree from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in molecular biology. For the past 18 years he has bee studying bacterial pathogens, first working to develop DNA-based methods of detecting these microbes and their remnants in environmental and laboratory samples, then developing methods to differentiate among different strains of the same pathogenic species. His methods are currently applied for forensic analysis of samples and aid in identifying the source of disease outbreaks. He contributed to analysis of the Bacillus anthracis present in the 2001 Amerithrax letters and conducted detailed analyses of human tissue samples preserved from the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak, providing evidence that was inconsistent with claims of a natural anthrax outbreak. His current work continues to focus on development of assays that rapidly detect specific signatures including antibiotic resistance in threat agents and other pathogens. More recent efforts are focused on exploiting genetic information about the pathogens that can be used to develop effective new antimicrobial compounds to combat these microbes. Paul spent 24 years as a Technical Staff Member at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he was heavily involved in development of the biological threat reduction efforts there. He was appointed a Laboratory Fellow at Los Alamos in recognition of his efforts. He moved to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2005 where he is presently Division Leader of the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division and heads the Host Pathogen Biology Group. In addition to his work at the National Laboratories, he served on the FBI's Scientific Working Group for Microbial Forensics, on NIH study sections and review panels, and on steering and oversight committees for other federal agencies.

Frankie Tate

Science Teacher
Granada High School, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District

Frankie has a BS degree in biology from Furman University in South Carolina and an MA in Natural Sciences from San Jose State University. She worked for 7 years in molecular biology labs at Indiana University and at Stanford Medical Center before becoming a teacher. She has taught in the Livermore School District since 1986. She teaches Biology, AP Biology, and Physiology at Granada High and served as science department chair for 6 years. She is the coordinator of the Granada High Biotechnology Pathway. Frankie was named Alameda County Teacher of the Year in 2008.