Sivatej Sarva, MD, PhD, is one of our pulmonary and critical care physicians at Hannibal Regional Medical Group. While working with patients is one of the most rewarding parts of his career, Dr. Sarva also spends a significant amount of his non-clinical time doing research which will help the medical community give patients better care. In his latest publication in the research journal PLOS One, Dr. Sarva and a team of researchers have discovered a new way of studying strains of bacteria and developing new antibiotics.
“There is an urgent need to develop new antibiotics as disease-causing bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics which are currently on the market.” Dr. Sarva stated. “Most of the present antibiotics are not specific and many times when disease-causing bacterium is identified, doctors are forced to prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic, leading to the removal of beneficial bacteria from the body and contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance.”
The organism used for Dr. Sarva’s study is Francisella tularensis. This bacterium is mainly prevalent in the states of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. It is a tick-borne disease which causes severe pneumonia called tularemia, mainly affecting hunters in these states. Dr. Sarva explained that “This bacterium has multiple strains which range from causing severe life threatening diseases to those which are completely harmless. The present research developed a new strategy where the gene products of the highly contagious, moderately contagious and noncontagious strains were compared reliably. This helped in identifying targets which are unique to the contagious strains. These targets are now being researched further to develop new antibiotics. As these medicines will be specific to the bacterium, they have the potential to be more effective and also have less of a chance of becoming ineffective due to development of resistance from the bacterium.”
“The new strategy we devised to help fight antibiotic-resistant bacterium is not limited to just Francisella,” said Dr. Sarva. “It can be applied to many of the other bacteria which cause severe infections. Widespread use of this technique could help in the development of new antibiotics and help to combat the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”