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Making Global Health a Priority

Sid Thakur examines pig

NC State faculty research helps bolster the university’s academic reputation and solve global challenges. Sid Thakur seeks to address one of those challenges — infectious diseases — through his work in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Thakur, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology and Associate Director at the Comparative Medicine Institute (CMI), focuses on antimicrobial drug resistance that impacts humans and animals. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge concern where antibiotics used to treat infectious diseases become ineffective for a variety of reasons.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health issue, as pathogens spread quickly and are not restricted by national borders,” said Thakur. “We’re trying to address the human, animal and environmental aspects of resistance through not only research, but also through education.”

Sid Thakur at podiumHis educational efforts received support in 2011 through a $5,000 seed grant from the Office of Global Engagement, which funded a food-borne pathogen tracking project in India, his home country. India does not maintain a pathogen monitoring (surveillance) system, so using the grant to get out and talk to people about drug resistance was pivotal.

“The grant allowed me to expand on a network that I had built in the U.S. of people with the knowledge and training to deal with antimicrobial resistance,” said Thakur. “Southeast Asia is a hot spot for emerging resistance mechanisms because of access to antibiotics. Here, you need a prescription to get antibiotics and in some parts of the world that’s not really the case, which makes drug resistant pathogens emerge and spread faster.”

Thakur then turned the seed grant into a $100,000 grant from the World Health Organization-Advisory Group on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (WHO-AGISAR). This grant supported a two-year study in India of how to combat drug resistance of bacterial pathogens like Salmonella and Escherichia coli. He hopes to take results from the study, which ended in April 2017, and apply for a National Institutes of Health Fogarty grant to continue his research on an even larger scale.

Ultimately, Thakur would like to promote stronger antimicrobial resistance surveillance systems in Southeast Asia and around the world. Continued funding would also allow for bringing individuals from low-to-medium income countries to the U.S. for training and education in establishing surveillance systems and other ways of combating antimicrobial resistance.

“We have the technical resources in the U.S. to equip professionals for success in their respective regions,” said Thakur. “Our big aim is to train people and have them help us figure out what types of bugs are coming from various parts of the world, the related resistance mechanisms, and what we can do in terms of prevention. This project contains elements of education, training, extension and engagement with the idea that together, we can stop these bugs from becoming even more resistant.”

Petri dishStopping what seems like ever-increasing resistance is a daunting task. Annual deaths from drug resistant pathogens is expected to surpass deaths from cancer by 2050. Thakur’s lab at NC State is doing other important work on antimicrobial resistance, including representing North Carolina in the FDA’s GenomeTrakr program and the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System for Enteric Bacteria.

In the College of Veterinary Medicine, Thakur notes that global health is an integral part of the new strategic mission, and he has received tremendous support from the college on his work. He’ll continue to work on establishing a global health program there, in addition to applying for an NIH T-32 training grant in partnership with the Duke Global Health Institute and members of the CMI. If funded, this program will team a physician with a veterinarian to work on infectious diseases in various parts of the world.

“There are a lot of challenges in this area, but there are also a lot of opportunities,” said Thakur. “With the support of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the CMI and NC State as a whole, we are looking to make an impact on a global scale.”

~Emily Packard/