Aerial view of UNMC campus

UNMC’s latest grant of $11.8 million for four projects studying drug-resistant bacteria will bring its total to $31 million by 2024.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have received $11.8 million over five years to continue four projects on a drug-resistant bacteria that causes infections that are among the most difficult to treat.

The cumulative total of the grant, first funded by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will be $31 million by the end of 2024.

The researchers’ target is infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The research focuses on the ways the bacteria survives and thrives, including how it eludes the human immune system.

“The immune system has evolved to respond to infections, but the staph bacteria have developed many ways to evade or even prevent a normal immune response,” said Ken Bayles, principal investigator on the grant and director of UNMC’s Center for Staphylococcus Research. “By learning how staph can cause infection, we can figure out strategies to overcome infection.”

More than 119,000 people suffered from staph infections in the United States in 2017, according the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 20,000 died.

Patients who have joint replacement surgery are one subject of concern. Infections can occur in up to 2% of such patients, according to UNMC. More than a million joint replacements now are performed each year. That’s expected to increase to more than 4 million by 2030.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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