Newswise — Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have made the world a much safer and healthier place. But Shakespeare was onto something when he asked if it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In the case of antibiotics, the answer is increasingly “yes.”

As a result, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center are teaming up to take on the rising problem of antibiotic resistance.

A new entity, Case VA CARES, will combine firepower from both organizations in the battle against antibiotic resistance. Staff will carry out new research, work to modify existing antibiotics, try and discover new ones, and use decoys to trick uncooperative bacteria.

The ProblemMore and more, bacteria and other microorganisms are developing resistance to antibiotics which used to kill them off. This resistance, which evolves via natural selection through random mutation, is usually caused by excessive use of antibiotics, including in livestock animals raised as human food. In turn, infections which used to yield to antibiotics can persist and even worsen, putting patients in danger. Not only does antibiotic resistance imperil health, it also adds to healthcare costs as doctors try different medicines to find ones bacteria haven’t become resistant to. Sometimes the stronger substitute antibiotics cause serious side effects such as kidney damage. More than two million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. ever year, leading to more than 23,000 deaths. Some experts say that without new inroads, the death toll could top that from cancer by mid-century. The financial costs are already enormous: as much as $20 billion in extra healthcare costs annually.

Case VA CARESCase VA CARES (CWRU-Cleveland VAMC Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Epidemiology) will be located in the CWRU School of Medicine and Cleveland VA with collaborating partner laboratories located around the world. “An immediate goal of this initiative is to boost research into multidrug-resistant Gram negative organisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae and mycobacteria, which can cause tuberculosis and many other infections,” said Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD, dean of CWRU School of Medicine. “Understanding the mechanistic and molecular bases of resistance is crucial to properly treating patients with serious infections.”

In addition to research and drug discovery, experts at the center will work with scientists throughout the world to track outbreaks of resistant organisms, discover new drugs, and develop training for physicians, medical students, and residents to recognize and prevent overuse of antibiotics.

The director of the center will be Robert A. Bonomo, MD, medicine service chief at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Faculty members of the new center will come from throughout both organizations including experts in infectious diseases, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, proteomics, and bioinformatics. Experienced scientists with expertise in bacterial genome sequencing and bioinformatics analyses will be recruited to augment experts from the CWRU Department of Genetics. “In the search for new antibiotics and fresh strategies for existing ones, Case VA CARES will play a prominent role in leading and conducting research needed to design and conduct clinical trials, which will take place at the VA , University Hospitals, MetroHealth, and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation,” said Dr. Bonomo, who is a member of the NIH-funded Antimicrobial Resistance Leadership Group (ARLG). The latter group is addressing national priorities for clinical research on antibiotic resistance.

Case VA CARES will also benefit from strong working relationships with industry partners of both the School of Medicine, University Hospitals of Cleveland, MetroHealth, the Cleveland Clinic and the VA Medical Center.


About Case Western Reserve University School of MedicineFounded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing healthcare environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's "Guide to Graduate Education."The School of Medicine is affiliated with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002. For more information, visit

About the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center is the hub of the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, providing and coordinating primary, acute and specialty care for Veterans. Focusing on treating the whole Veteran through health promotion and disease prevention, the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System delivers comprehensive, seamless healthcare and social services for Veterans at 18 locations across Northeast Ohio. The Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System contributes to the future of medicine through education, training and research programs. For more information visit