Combating wicked microbes and overcoming antibiotic resistance
Microbes, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites cause diseases ranging from chronic infection, which cause inconvenience, to devastating lethal infections. Microbial infections are still the major cause of mortality in both industrial and developing countries. Urgent issues that are on the frontline of the ongoing arm race between humans and microbes include antibacterial drug resistance, lack of vaccines against most microbes, cancerous transformation caused by chronic infectious diseases, and lack of knowledge on how to harness the "good" microbes to combat infections by harmful pathogens.
Antibacterial resistance: The discovery of antibiotics in the beginning of the 20th century was the most important landmark in the battle against pathogenic bacteria. However, this glorious era is coming to an end, since pathogens developed antibiotic resistance, with some of them resisting all currently known antibiotics. These pathogens are spreading rapidly due to modern human mobility, causing high mortality, particularly among the elderly and immunosuppressive individuals, as well as in newborns. Identifying novel targets for the development of new and effective antibiotics by innovative strategies is one of the most important missions of science nowadays.
Vaccine development: Vaccine is the safest and most effective means to prevent microbial infections. However, some of the most infectious microbes, such as the malaria-causing parasite, the AIDS-causing virus and the tuberculosis-causing bacteria evolved intricate systems to outsmart our immune system. Thus, a prerequisite for the development new and affective vaccines is to understand how pathogens evade human immune attack.
Cancer-causing chronic diseases: Chronic microbe infections play a key role in the development of a large number of conditions, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatism, and even depression and autism. Better understanding the microbes’ involvement in these conditions is destined to transform the way we treat and prevent them.
Harnessing beneficial microbes to enhance human health: Humans carry complex microbe communities, mainly on the skin and gut, termed microbiome. Recent advance in our understanding of the human microbiome had revolutionized the way we think about bacteria in our body. Not only are most of them harmless, but they are actually key players in keeping us humans in good health. They train our immune system, fight “bad” bacteria and help us recover from infections. Deep understanding of how the "good" bacteria benefit us will lead to novel strategies to eradicate pathogens, and heal chronic metabolic illness.
The department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics is an important and unique component of the Faculty of Medicine of the Hebrew University, since it is the biggest, the strongest and the most influential center of microbiology in Israel. The faculty members are world-known leaders in different disciplines required to tackle the issues described above, including experts in microbial genetics, virology, parasitology, microbiome, vaccine development, computational analysis of virulence, and microbes used for bio-terrorism. The department is situate in the Hadassah campus, maintaining close ties with clinicians in the Department of Clinical Microbiology at the Hadassah hospital. The different research groups study various infectious microbes that pose threats to developed countries, without neglecting third world problems. The interactions between the research teams leads to synergistic development, generates a large pool of knowledge and advance the faculty to the forefront in this new era of microbiology. The time to support research of the critical problems described above is now!