ARLINGTON - A UT Arlington microbiologist developing
a treatment for one of the most widespread hospital infections in the U.S. has
been awarded $1.9 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National
Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
Julian Hurdle, an assistant
professor of biology, plans to study the effect of reutericyclin compounds on
the bacteria Clostridium difficile or C. difficile. His co-investigator on the
project is Richard Lee, a medicinal chemist and faculty member at St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
C. difficile is the leading
cause of diarrhea in elderly hospital and nursing home patients. It also
affects cancer patients and others with compromised immune systems. There are
more than 500,000 cases each year and 15,000 to 20,000 deaths.
treatments to combat serious public health threats such as hospital infections
is the type of research work that occurs at national research universities like
UT Arlington,” said Ron Elsenbaumer, UT Arlington Vice President for Research.
“Dr. Hurdle’s work could be the first step toward a valuable new therapy that
will help save lives.”
Reutericyclin is an antimicrobial
compound produced naturally by a probiotic organism called Lactobacillus
reuteri. Hurdle and Lee have already produced synthetic forms of reutericyclin
in the lab with improved antibacterial properties.
In previous research, they’ve shown
that the reutericyclin compounds rapidly kill C. difficile in its stationary phase,
when it stops growing and begins to release the dangerous toxins that cause
diarrhea. That is something antibiotics currently used to treat the condition
haven’t achieved, Hurdle said. It is also effective against growing cells.
“C. difficile infections have
become more widespread and difficult to treat over the past ten years, with
high rates of relapse,” said Hurdle, who joined the UT Arlington College of Science in
2010. “With only a few drugs available to treat it, there is a great clinical
need and a market opportunity in developing treatments for C. difficile
Hurdle and Lee will use the five-year
grant from NIH to improve the effectiveness of their reutericyclin compounds
and explore how it works against C. difficile. They believe reutericyclin is
unique because it attacks the membrane of the C. difficile cells, killing them
by affecting multiple cellular processes the bacteria needs to survive.
Hurdle said reutericyclin might also
be an attractive treatment because it targets C. difficile without doing
“collateral damage” to bacteria needed to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal
Results from previous work by
Hurdle and Lee were recently published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in a paper entitled:
“Reutericyclin and related analogues kill stationary phase Clostridium
difficile at achievable colonic concentrations.”
Hurdle and Lee also believe that
reutericyclins could be used to coat the surface of biomedical implants to prevent
contamination of devices with bacteria such as MRSA and Staphylococcus
epidermidis. Those bacteria cause persistent infections responsible for the
failure of several commonly used medical implants.
Hurdle’s work is an
example of the cutting-edge research going on at The University of Texas at
Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of 33,800 students in the heart
of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu
to learn more.