Dr. William Miller
Dr. William Miller

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) named Dr. William Miller, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Genomics (CARMiG), the recipient of the Young Investigator Award in Infectious Diseases with a $40,000 grant providing funding for research.

Miller’s research interests involve the clinical impact and mechanistic bases of antimicrobial resistance in healthcare-associated pathogens. His research focuses in particular on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a leading cause of ventilator-associated pneumonia, bloodstream, and urinary tract infections. While new antibiotics to treat this bacteria have entered clinical practice, resistance to them has already been reported and there are worries that resistance genes could spread from one bacteria to another.

“If there is one bacteria in a single patient, we can utilize infection control measures to prevent the spread of resistant infections. If they’re sharing resistance genes in the community, outside of the hospital, then that is a much more difficult situation to control. In patients presenting with a resistant infection, our initial antibiotics may not garner the response we think they should,” Miller said.

The funds will be used to support sequencing a variety of isolates, and Miller will be comparing current isolates to historical ones from across the last decade in Houston to identify trends in the epidemiology and resistance of P. aeruginosa.

“We want to see if there is evidence that some of these bacteria have been around previously, and have now acquired resistance genes.” Miller said.

To be eligible for the award, Miller had to submit an application through a competitive nationwide selection process, with the support of both his research mentor, Dr. Cesar A. Arias, and the division chair, Dr. Barbara E. Murray. Miller said he found out about the award through communications distributed by IDSA and felt it would be a good fit for the project and a good way to demonstrate the capabilities of CARMiG. Using genomic sequencing methods and microbiologic expertise from CARMiG, Miller can work to determine how, when, and where the mutations have occurred in the bacteria.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to look into a project I found both interesting from a scientific standpoint and helpful in the treatment of patients we see in clinical practice,” Miller said. “I think it speaks to the assets we have here at CARMiG and UTHealth and the fact we have the cutting edge technology to be at the forefront of this field. Our connections with Memorial Hermann and the Medical Center gives us a unique opportunity to understand antimicrobial resistance and delve into its impact and how we can help our patients.”