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Presentation Time: 4:25-4:45
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Brian Conlon, Microbiology and Immunology
Program: SOLAR & SURE
Research Title: Utilizing Palmitoleic Acid to Enhance Bactericidal Activity of Antibiotics in Gram-positive Bacteria

Lack of commercial viability impedes the development of new antibiotics and the last new class of antibiotic was approved in 2003. Therefore, improving the efficacy of pre-existing antibiotics is a promising strategy to address the antimicrobial resistance crisis. Vancomycin is the frontline antibiotic to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), however its poor bactericidal activity results in high treatment failure. Our research shows that palmitoleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid, synergizes with vancomycin to kill S. aureus in vitro. However, it is still unknown if palmitoleic acid can also potentiate vancomycin killing of other pathogens. The focus of this research is to test the effectiveness of vancomycin and palmitoleic acid in killing seven other clinically relevant Gram-positive bacteria. We find that palmitoleic acid enhances the bactericidal activity of vancomycin against several Gram-positive species. These findings support the use of unsaturated fatty acids as an antibiotic adjuvant for the treatment of bacterial infections and provides evidence for its use as a novel strategy to enhance our current arsenal of antibiotics. Moving forward, the aim of the project will unravel the underlying mechanism of synergy to identify other antibiotic adjuvants.