Friday, September 2, 2016

Sophomore Finds Potential Treatment for Antibiotic-Resistant Tuberculosis

Could this LETU sophomore have found the solution to extreme antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis? 

Sophomore Blake Maxfeldt, right, and Dr. Greg Frederick
Sophomore biology major Blake Maxfeldt discovered a new virus through LETU's Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (PHAGES) program. It's an undergraduate research project partnering with Howard Hughes Medical Institute that LETU biology students started working on last year. These students have been hunting for a specific type of virus: the bacteriophage, often referred to as the "phage." 

Here's the importance of the phage: a phage is a virus that attacks bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, which don't change once entered in the body, a phage can mutate in accordance with the bacteria in order to kill it. 

"Certain strains of tuberculosis are particularly antibiotic-resistant and mutate quickly," Dr. Greg Frederick, LETU Department Chair of Biology and Kinesiology, said. "This alternative treatment could potentially solve the problem of this antibiotic-resistant disease." 

Blake tested a soil sample from LETU's campus last year and isolated the phage that was determined to be a new discovery. He says he's grateful for the rare opportunity to do hands-on research as an undergraduate. 

"I've learned so many skills throughout the process that I feel will put me at a great advantage when I apply for graduate school," he said.