Ilana L. Brito, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Biomedical Engineering
Institution
Cornell University
Address
Kimball Hall 289
City, State, Zip
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone
(607) 254-2938
E-mail
ibrito@cornell.edu
Website
https://www.britolab.org
Research Field
Microbiology; Biomedical Engineering
Award Year
2018

Research

The Brito lab will investigate how the use of antibiotics drives the emergence of multidrug-resistant microbes. Recently, a woman in Nevada died from an infection with a pneumonia-causing superbug that was resistant to all antibiotics currently in use. Such resistance arises when bacteria acquire genes from other bacteria that have survived exposure to the drugs—including microbes that inhabit the healthy human intestine. As a postdoctoral fellow, I developed a novel approach for analyzing the genomes of the human microbiome one bacterium at a time. Now, combining these tools with cutting-edge genomic, computational, and microbiological techniques, our lab will determine how antibiotics trigger the movement of resistance genes within an individual microbiome. We will assess whether the rate of gene sharing is elevated after antibiotic use and whether this transfer depends on the identity of the drug, the bacterial species involved, or on whether the antibiotic induces DNA damage—a common trigger for genetic rearrangement. Our findings could allow physicians to evaluate the risks associated with the use of antibiotics in individual patients and slow the expansion of antibiotic resistance worldwide.

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