Cigarette Smoke Makes Superbugs More Aggressive

In lab and mouse experiments, cigarette smoke helps drug-resistant bacteria fight off the immune system —

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant superbug, can cause life-threatening skin, bloodstream and surgical site infections or pneumonia. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine now report that cigarette smoke may make matters worse. The study, published March 30 by Infection and Immunity, shows that MRSA bacteria exposed to cigarette smoke become even more resistant to killing by the immune system. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MDPulmonologist Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, is senior author of the study report. She is a Health Sciences assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego and a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

Read the study abstract with link to PDF in Infection and Immunity (UCSD only)

Richard Garfein and Kevin Patrick Named M2M Pioneers

Applying Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Technology to Verify Compliance with Tuberculosis Treatment Regimen

Dr. Richard Garfein

Dr. Richard Garfein

UC San Diego’s Richard Garfein and Kevin Patrick have been named M2M Pioneers for 2013 for their Video Directly Observed Therapy (VDOT) Program for tuberculosis.

The honor comes from Connected World magazine, which presents the M2M Pioneer awards to a small number of outstanding innovators in machine-to-machine technology each year.

The VDOT program uses smartphone video to verify that tuberculosis patients comply with the painstaking six-month regimen of antibiotics required for a cure. Incomplete treatment fails to cure the TB and raises the risk that antibiotic-resistant strains of TB will develop.

Richard Garfein, PhD, MPH, an infectious disease epidemiologist, is professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health. The inspiration for the VDOT program came to him as he watched his children use smartphones to send videos to their friends.

Dr. Kevin Patrick

Dr. Kevin Patrick

Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, is director of the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute (the San Diego division of Calit2) and professor of family and preventive medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine.

In their NIH-funded pilot study in San Diego and Tijuana in 2011-2012, Garfein and Patrick demonstrated that the VDOT program was an effective tool for ensuring that patients adhered to their treatment regimens.

They also showed that VDOT could reduce costs for the local public health agency; in the pilot study, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The agency’s only previous option had been to send health workers to patients’ homes to watch them take their medications.

Garfein and Patrick reported their results in an mHealth Summit Meeting abstract published in the Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine.

Now, Garfein and colleagues are working on implementing the program on a larger scale through a public/private partnership with the Verizon Foundation, which provides funding and in-kind assistance.

The Garfein-Patrick team included other faculty and staff of the Global Public Health division and a number of specialists from the Qualcomm Institute.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee. Image ©International AIDS Society/Marcus Rose/Workers’ Photos. Used with permission.

“Congratulations to them both, and to Ramesh Rao and their team from the Qualcomm Institute, for this fantastic achievement and excellent teamwork,” said Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, Harold Simon Professor, Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and chief of the Division of Global Public Health.

Ramesh Rao, PhD, director of the San Diego division of the Qualcomm Institute, holds the QUALCOMM Endowed Chair in Telecommunications and Information Technology. He is professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

Said Garfein, “Working with Kevin and collaborating with the expert programmers at the Qualcomm Institute has been one of the highlights of my academic career.

“Although they are not included in the article because of the magazine’s information technology focus, we wouldn’t have been as successful if it weren’t for all the hard work by Jazmine Cuevas-Mota, Kelly Collins, and Fatima Muñoz in the Division of Global Public Health, and the dedicated employees of the San Diego County TB Control Program led by Dr. Kathleen Moser,” he said.

In the Division of Global Public Health, Cuevas-Mota is a project coordinator for Garfein, Collins is an assistant project coordinator and Muñoz is a postdoctoral fellow on the project.

“This has been a terrific project and it’s been a true pleasure to work with Richard and his team on it,” said Patrick.

“With a bit of luck, this could have world-wide impact on the health of the public. When all is said and done, this is why we are in this game.”

“This is very exciting and well deserved,” said Susan Taylor, PhD, UC San Diego professor of chemistry and biochemistry and pharmacology. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in biophysics and structural biology.

“It has been so much fun for me to watch these amazing things unfold and to realize how much we can achieve by working together and building bridges across the boundaries of our campus. This is much of what makes UCSD so special.

UC San Diego Health Sciences Video: VDOT Technology Eases Monitoring for Patients with Tuberculosis

More Information:

New More Effective Antimicrobials Might Rise From Old

Findings could have major impact in struggle against evolving drug resistance

By tinkering with their chemical structures, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have essentially re-invented a class of popular antimicrobial drugs, restoring and in some cases, expanding or improving, their effectiveness against drug-resistant pathogens in animal models.

Writing in the October 7 Early Edition of PNAS, Lars Eckmann, MD, professor of medicine, and colleagues … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Lars EckmannLars Eckmann, MD, professor of medicine and a researcher in the Division of Gastroenterology, is senior investigator in the study.

Eckmann directs the UCSD Center for Tissue Repair, Epithelial Biology and Inflammation, and Transformation (C-TREAT), a National Institutes of Health Digestive Disease Research Development Center.

In his research laboratory, he addresses the mechanisms governing infection-related intestinal disease and the host defenses against them; and the pathophysiology of intestinal inflammation.

Other Department of Medicine coauthors of the PNAS report are project scientist Yukiko Miyamoto, Dae Young Cheung, Ricardo Lozano, Eduardo R. Cobo and professor Douglas E. Berg.

Citation for the study report:

Yukiko Miyamoto, Jarosław Kalisiak, Keith Korthals, Tineke Lauwaet, Dae Young Cheung, Ricardo Lozano, Eduardo R. Cobo, Peter Upcroft, Jacqueline A. Upcroft, Douglas E. Berg, Frances D. Gillin, Valery V. Fokin, K. Barry Sharpless, and Lars Eckmann. Expanded therapeutic potential in activity space of next-generation 5-nitroimidazole antimicrobials with broad structural diversity. PNAS 2013; published ahead of print October 7, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1302664110  |  Full text PDF (UCSD only)

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UC San Diego and Verizon Team to Improve Tuberculosis Care

Verizon Foundation to provide grant and in-kind technology solutions to scale up novel approach to monitoring adherence to TB treatment

As part of an innovative philanthropic health care program targeting reduction of health care disparities in diverse communities around the United States, the Verizon Foundation has provided the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine with a $300,000 grant, as well as important in-kind health information technology solutions.

The support from Verizon will allow researchers from the University to more quickly scale-up a mobile phone-based solution that they developed to overcome the high cost and other barriers to monitoring tuberculosis patients throughout their treatment…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Richard GarfeinLeading the program is Richard Garfein, PhD, MPH, left, professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health. Dr. Garfein, an infectious disease epidemiologist, joined the UC San Diego faculty from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005.

He is conducting the project in collaboration with the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Demonstration of "video directly observed therapy"At right, Dr. Garfein’s daughter demonstrates a smartphone video app that makes it possible for a distant clinician to confirm that a patient has taken a dose of tuberculosis medication.

The approach is called “video directly observed therapy” (VDOT). Dr. Garfein and collaborators have demonstrated the feasibility, acceptability and potential efficacy of VDOT in an NIH-funded pilot study in San Diego and Tijuana. Their mHealth Summit Meeting abstract for the project is published in the Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine.

In the next six months, with the Verizon Foundation’s assistance, they will expand the VDOT smartphone app for broader use.

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee“This is a new and exciting direction and a new funding source for UCSD,” said Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the UC San Diego Division of Global Public Health.

She directs the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative and is founding co-director of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center for Migration and Health.

More Information:

Dr. Lars Eckmann Awarded NIH Challenge Grant

Dr. Lars Eckmann

Dr. Lars Eckmann

Lars Eckmann, MD, has received a two-year, nearly $1 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for his study, “Click chemistry for novel antimicrobials against periodontal pathogens.”

The funding comes from the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research program, a part of the 2009 federal stimulus package.

Dr. Eckmann’s project will focus on developing new, very specific antibiotics to treat periodontal disease. Read the abstract of Dr. Eckmann’s grant

Periodontitis, which affects a large number of Americans, can cause tooth loss and has been associated with systemic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems.

Current antibiotic therapies for periodontitis are predominantly administered systemically, but the resulting side effects limit their use in treating early-stage disease.

Dr. Eckmann, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, directs the Animal Model Core of the Center for Tissue Repair, Epithelial Biology and Inflammation, and Transformation (C-TREAT), which is UCSD’s Digestive Disease Research Development Center.

In his research, Dr. Eckmann focuses on intestinal and systemic responses to microbial infection, mucosal immunology, and the pathophysiology of intestinal inflammation.