Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D.
Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D.

Earlier this year, the United Nations designated antibiotic resistance as a global health priority and emphasized that collaboration would be key to slowing the spread of deadly superbugs. With that in mind, Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D., was already at work forming the Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Genomics (CARMiG) at McGovern Medical School, a multi-institutional effort to combat the global threat of antibiotic resistance.

Arias was recently named chair of the newly-formed Gulf Coast Consortia Antimicrobial Resistance Cluster, an inter-institutional cooperative with a focus on building strong collaborative research groups and interdisciplinary training opportunities for Ph.D. and postdoctoral students.

“If the problem continues at this pace, we’re going to have a huge loss of life and economic output. It’s tremendously urgent for us to step up and do something about it,” Arias said during the opening ceremony for the new center on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

A number of local and global leaders praised Arias and the McGovern Medical School for the collaborative nature of the center and how it can help address a complex problem. Remarks were made during the opening ceremony by representatives from Rice University, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Houston, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist, Universidad El Bosque in Colombia, and the British Consulate General.

“I think that we all can be proud, Cesar, of what you your team have accomplished and will accomplish with this new center,” said Barbara J. Stoll, M.D., dean of McGovern Medical School and H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences.

A common theme of the evening was the complexity of addressing antibiotic resistance. Keynote speaker Arjun Srinivasan M.D., associate director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), described the lack of cleanliness in hospital environments, over prescribing of antibiotics, lack of new antibiotics on the market, and animal growth hormone use among farmers as the major causes of antibiotic resistance.

“About a third of all the antibiotics that we use, whether that is in emergency departments, outpatient clinics, hospitals, or nursing homes, is completely unnecessary. They [illnesses] go away on their own without any detrimental effects to the patients,” Srinivasan said.

According to the CDC, two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States each year and 23,000 of those infections lead to death. Srinivasan emphasized that behind these statistics lie individual tragedies.

CARMiG will host an Antibiotic Resistance Symposium: Novel Frontiers in Antimicrobial Research Jan. 19 – 20 at the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) Building Auditorium, 1st Floor, 6500 Main St. For more information about the event, abstract submission and registration, contact rosa.gonzalez@uth.tmc.edu