It is becoming increasingly recognized that the therapy of infectious diseases is facing twin threats. On the one hand antibiotic and antiviral resistance is rising rapidly;on the other there are relatively few novel compounds under development or entering the clinic. One promising set of compounds are the cationic host defense (antimicrobial) peptides, that collectively have anti-biofilm, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activities and are naturally produced by virtually all complex organisms ranging from plants and insects to humans as a major component of their innate defenses against infection. Our research has been instrumental in delivering, to clinical trials, both topicl antimicrobials and selectively immunomodulatory innate defense regulator (IDR) peptides;however these trials did not explore the full potential of these molecules. Recently we demonstrated that some of these peptides suppress the formation of biofilms by a number of serious Gram negative bacterial infections. Here we are pursuing this strategy as an adjunct to conventional antibiotic therapy. It is particularly relevant since bacteria causing infections ofte (60%) grow as biofilms that are specialized colonial structures that are highly resistant to conventional antibiotics. The objective here is this to suppress biofilm infection by highly resistant and dangerous pathogens, making these infections more susceptible to conventional antibiotics. Our major broad long term objective is thus to create badly needed new approaches to treating infections to overcome antibiotic resistance in the face of a dearth in new antibiotic discovery.
Our Specific Aims, in large part based on preliminary data, are (1) identify peptides with optimized activities that are smaller and resistant to proteases, (2) test synergy with a variety of conventional antibiotics against organisms in the biofilm state, (3) understand the mechanism(s) of anti-biofilm activity and (4) characterize their activity in realistic models of infection. 1

Public Health Relevance

The antibiotic era, stemming from the deployment of penicillin, introduced arguably the most successful medicine of all time, impacting dramatically on life expectancy by decreasing childhood and adult deaths from infections, and enabling complex surgeries, transplantations and cancer chemotherapy. The therapy of bacterial infectious diseases is now under severe threat due to an explosion of multiple antibiotic resistance, and a declining rate of discovery of new antibiotics. This proposal will directly address this serious public health issue by developing novel strategies and drugs to deal with recalcitrant resistant Gram-negative pathogens.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1-NLE-M (J1))
Program Officer
Xu, Zuoyu
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of British Columbia
Zip Code
V6 1-Z3
de la Fuente-Núñez, César; Reffuveille, Fany; Haney, Evan F et al. (2014) Broad-spectrum anti-biofilm peptide that targets a cellular stress response. PLoS Pathog 10:e1004152
Reffuveille, Fany; de la Fuente-Núñez, César; Mansour, Sarah et al. (2014) A broad-spectrum antibiofilm peptide enhances antibiotic action against bacterial biofilms. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 58:5363-71