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World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Q&A with Dr. Andrew McArthur

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Dr. Andrew McArthur

Dr. Andrew McArthur is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University. He currently holds the CISCO Research Chair in Bioinformatics.

How is your lab contributing to the global effort to combat antibiotic resistance?

The McArthur Lab works in informatics, and we are very much aligned with the current genomics revolution – the use of DNA sequencing data to track antibiotic resistance. Since we are a computational biology lab – meaning we are strictly computing – we are focused on building the software and IT framework needed to capture this data at every hospital and every clinic. By continuously collecting and analyzing this rich data, we can predict resistance, guide the use of antibiotics and improve the stewardship of antibiotics.

Right now, unfortunately, we do not have enough data on the underlying genes that are involved in resistance to make necessary public policy decisions. For example, resistance to one drug could have any number of genetic causes, we simply do not know. And until we do know, we cannot implement a targeted response to, let’s say, contain an outbreak.

The McArthur Lab has set out to change this. Through our research, we are increasing the body of knowledge from which policy-makers and clinicians can draw from to develop future strategies to counter antibiotic resistance.