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University of Maryland School of Medicine Researchers Studying New Approach to Fighting Antibiotic-Resistant Wound Infections

October 31, 2017 | oanne Morrison

Alan Cross, MD

U.S. Military-Funded Research Could Help Stave Off Drug-Resistant Staph Infections

Antibiotic resistance to serious wound and systemic infections is a growing concern, particularly among those injured in combat. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) are studying how to fend off deadly infections by targeting the body’s immune response to harmful bacteria.

The research will focus on life-threatening infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumoniae (KP), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), to see if this new approach will improve the outcome of infection in a burn wound.

Rather than fighting the pathogens once infection is present, researchers are instead using small molecules, or peptides, to change how the body’s immune system responds when it is exposed to them. “This approach could pave the way toward treating a wide range of infections,” said Alan Cross, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine in UM SOM’s Center for Vaccine Development, who is the principal investigator for the research.

With a $1.18 million, three-year grant awarded by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA), in collaboration with Dr. Raymond Kaempfer of the Hebrew University, Israel, Dr. Cross’s team will develop novel peptides to keep the immune system from responding with the typical inflammation that takes place when the body is exposed to pathogens and is trying to fight off infection.

In prior research, Dr. Cross’ s team discovered that preventing this inflammatory response helps the body’s immune system better fight against infections.

“What we have been focusing on is not to deal with the bacteria, but the host response to the bacteria,” said Dr. Cross.

Using special molecules, or peptides, researchers will target the co-stimulation receptors in the immune system called CD28, B7-1 and B7-2, in order to stunt or fend off the inflammation and white blood cell activation.

“Dr. Cross’s research to develop an alternative approach for fighting these serious infections is critical and builds upon the research here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to address the growing and serious concern of antimicrobial resistance,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Commemorating its 210th Anniversary, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically-based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and nearly $450 million in extramural funding, with more than half of its academic departments ranked in the top 20 among all public medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has a total budget of $5 billion and an economic impact of nearly $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th-highest public medical school in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit

About the Center for Vaccine Development

Since its inception in 1974, the CVD has worked to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases. The CVD has created and tested vaccines against cholera, typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, non-typhoidal salmonella disease, shigellosis (bacillary dysentery), Escherichia coli diarrhea, nosocomial pathogens, tularemia, influenza, and other infectious diseases.

Learn More

• Center for Vaccine Development (CVD)


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University of Maryland School of Medicine
Joanne Morrison
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
University of Maryland School of Medicine
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