Fiegel's research aims to assist those with respiratory infections
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Jennifer Fiegel, assistant professor in the Colleges of Pharmacy and Engineering, has received a $405,652 two-year R21 research award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The long-term goal of Fiegel’s research is to develop more effective, inhalable treatments for respiratory infections. Such infections can easily become chronic or invasive in people with cystic fibrosis or disorders that can weaken the immune system. A specific bacteria—Pseudomonas aeruginosa—is the focus of Fiegel’s work because once it is established in such patients it can lead to ongoing, decades-long infections and is a major cause of death.
Aggressive antibiotic therapy can alleviate acute symptoms of P. aeruginosa lung infections, but does not completely eradicate the bacteria.
“We’re essentially trying to augment the antibiotics to make them more effective,” Fiegel says. “The bacteria form little communities (called biofilms) to protect themselves, so they’re hard to get rid of. We want to entice the bacteria out of the biofilms, and then kill them with the antibiotics.”
Fiegel hopes to identify a unique combination of compounds that will more effectively eradicate P. aeruginosa biofilms. In the lab, her team’s preliminary results show success working on a simple strain of the bacteria. The new research will take different strains of the bacteria from actual patients and apply them to a realistic, real-world model involving mice.
Fiegel will collaborate with two others at the UI: Alexander Horswill, a microbiologist and biofilm expert, and David Stoltz, a physician scientist.