Our research focuses on the evolution of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is a serious problem affecting thousands of lives each year. Recent outbreaks of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have illustrated the severity of the resistance problem. Reports in the popular press (New York Times, Oct 16, 2007) have identified MRSA as a greater health threat than HIV. However, the health threats posed by MRSA are only a small fraction of the antimicrobial resistance problem. The causative agents of deadly diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia are also becoming resistant to nearly all existing antibiotics as well. Our lab is investigating several approaches to combat the threat of resistance.
1. Developing diagnostic tools to rapidly identify infectious bacteria
2. Studying the population genetics of antimicrobial resistance genes to determine what causes them to spread
3. Developing methods to infer what causes antimicrobial resistance to evolve
4. Experimentally predicting how important resistance genes will evolve in the future
These approaches implement evolutionary biology, microbiology, and biochemistry. In addition to promoting strategies to reduce antimicrobal resistance, our research is also increasing our understanding of the processes that drive the evolution of antimicrobial resistance. We are developing antimicrobial resistance as a model system for studying basic microbial processes.