Research Team at Children’s Hospital and Pitt One of Four Sites Nationally to Receive Contract to Study Antibiotic Resistance

January 7, 2011

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have been awarded a six-year, $8.2 million contract (pending the availability of appropriations) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a study of 600 children to address antibiotic resistance.

Children’s Hospital is one of only four institutions to be awarded these recent contracts related to antimicrobial research from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The Children’s clinical trial will aim to determine the efficacy of short-course antibiotic therapy and its impact on antimicrobial resistance in young children with acute otitis media (ear infections). The principal investigator is Alejandro Hoberman, M.D., chief of the Division of General Academic Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Acute otitis media is the pediatric illness for which antibiotics are most often prescribed. Three out of four children will experience an ear infection by age 3. However, diagnosis remains difficult and experts often are divided on treatment options, according to Dr. Hoberman.

“Ear infections affect the vast majority of children, yet they can be difficult to diagnose and clinicians do not always agree on what constitutes adequate treatment. Experts remain divided between the so-called ‘watchful waiting’ approach and treatment with antibiotics,” said Dr. Hoberman, who also is the Jack L. Paradise Endowed Professor in Pediatric Research at Children’s Hospital. “Children’s plans to enroll more than 600 children in the study to determine the efficacy of a short-duration antibiotic treatment strategy, compared with standard duration, in treating ear infections, and what the impact is on antibiotic resistance.”

These new trials are part of a two-pronged NIAID approach to antimicrobial research: learning how to make better use of the drugs we have today in order to protect their usefulness, while simultaneously facilitating the development of new drugs.

“Many infectious diseases are increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria and other microbes have developed resistance to commonly used antimicrobial drugs,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., in an NIAID news release dated Oct. 19, 2010. “Research to preserve the effectiveness of licensed antibiotics is a critical priority for the Institute. With these new contracts, NIAID now supports a total of eight large clinical trials in this arena.”

Antimicrobial research has changed significantly since many current drugs were developed, said Dennis M. Dixon, Ph.D., chief of NIAID’s Bacteriology and Mycology Branch, in the Oct. 19 NIAID news release. “Years ago, we were not as focused on antimicrobial resistance because there was generally another class of drug in the research and development pipeline. Today, the development of new antimicrobials is moving much more slowly than the evolution of resistance to existing treatments, so we need to preserve the drugs we have.”

Like the four large NIAID trials already in progress, the four new studies are designed to answer specific questions about how to improve treatment strategies. The investigators will conduct clinical trials of new regimens involving the use of already licensed, off-patent antimicrobial therapies to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance developing in the diseases of interest. The goal is to be more precise with what antimicrobial drugs a patient needs, at what dose, and for how long.”

For more information about Dr. Hoberman’s research, please visit

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,
Anita Srikameswaran, 412 578-9193,