UIC given funds to develop new bioweapon antibiotics

Four million dollars in stimulus package funds will be given to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago to aid in the development of new antibiotics to treat anthrax, tularemia and plague.

Anthrax, tularemia and plague, which are all caused by naturally occurring bacteria, are classified as "category-A" agents that could potentially be used for bioterrorist attacks and in biowarfare.

The microorganisms have been identified as risks to national security because of their ease of transmission and dissemination, high mortality results, potential major public health impact and ability to cause panic, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention has said.

The infections can currently be treated with antibiotics, Michael Johnson, professor and director of the UIC Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and lead researcher on two-year grant, said, but none of the antibiotics is ideal. Only one antibiotic, doxycycline, can effectively be used to treat more than one of the three diseases.

Additionally, it is possible that terrorists could develop multi-drug resistant strains for all three diseases.

The goal of the newly funded research is to develop an advanced series of broad-spectrum antibacterial "lead" compounds that are safe, efficient and can be ingested orally.

The $4 million grant is the largest grant received by UIC as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,one of the National Institutes of Health.

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