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Theriot Earns NIH Grant to Fight Bacterial Infections

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Casey M. Theriot for research combating one of the leading hospital-acquired infections in the United States.

Theriot, an assistant professor of infectious disease at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, is exploring new bacterial therapies to treat Clostridium difficile infections, which affects more than 500,000 and leads to the deaths of 30,000 Americans each year.

When people are treated for bacterial infections in hospitals, antibiotics can alter gut bacteria, which prevents pathogens like C. difficile from growing. Theriot is studying the bacteria to develop new therapeutics that will inhibit C. difficile growth. Her lab aims to design targeted bacterial therapies to prevent gastrointestinal diseases, using a range of cutting-edge experimental technologies and animal models of CDI to ultimately kick C. difficile out of the gut.

The NIH’s Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for New and Early Stage Investigators will be awarded over five years.

“This award will allow my research lab to continue to search for the mechanisms of how the gut microbiota provides resistance against pathogens including C. difficile,” says Theriot. “Ultimately, this will allow us to design more creative targeted bacterial therapies.”

Current treatment of humans with CDI is antibiotics, but that comes with a relapse rate of around 20 to 30 percent. Those with recurrent CDI have turned to fecal transplantation, which recolonizes the gut with healthy donor stool. Though fecal transplantation has been found to be very successful, the long-term effects are unknown.

“It is my hope that this research will revolutionize targeted bacterial therapeutic approaches against C. difficile infection and many other human diseases in the future, including metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes.”

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine