The Medical Problem and the Scientific Challenge
Commonly encountered microbes are dramatically and increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Hospital workers are faced with significant problems in treating infections. In Canada, about 200,000 individuals acquire bacterial infections in our hospitals every year and 70% of these microbes are resistant to at least one commonly used drugs; ~7,000 deaths result. Estimated annual costs to treat sepsis in Canadian hospitals are $1.7 billion. Last year, none of the 400 FDA-approved drugs was anti-bacterial. Multiple factors contribute to the ineffectiveness of antimicrobials. Currently there are limited known targets for antibiotics. The scientific challenge requires continued basic science research for discovery of new targets.

Our molecular and structural biology research program focuses on transport of essential nutrients across the cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria. These include human pathogens [Escherichia coli] and animal pathogens [Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae]. Transport systems are compulsory for bacterial survival and virulence. So far, their structures and their functions are incompletely understood. Two membranes surround the Gram-negative bacterial cell. Our studies on molecular microbiology and X-ray structures of proteins in both membranes provide detailed information that directs research towards novel targets for antimicrobials and novel candidates for vaccines.