Gautam Dantas, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology for his studies of microbial communities and antibiotic resistance. Dantas is one of 109 fellows elected this year to the academy, which recognizes scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.
Also a professor of biomedical engineering and of molecular microbiology, Dantas studies microbial communities that live in the environment and on people and animals. His work on soil microbes helped explain how antibiotic resistance emerges and spreads. He also studies how the intestinal microbiome becomes established in childhood, and showed that treating babies with antibiotics reduces the variety of healthy bacteria in their guts and promotes the growth of drug-resistant species.
Dantas also studies the biological and biosynthetic abilities of microbes, with an eye toward designing novel therapeutics to combat antibiotic resistance and potentially harmful changes to the microbiome. By targeting multiple essential biological processes in Staphylococcus bacteria with a triple-drug cocktail, he was able to successfully treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in mice. He has discovered novel antibiotic resistance mechanisms in diverse microbes and habitats, and has designed inhibitors against these resistance enzymes to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. Finally, he is engineering novel abilities into microbes for biomedical and industrial applications, such as probiotics for improved gut health and microbial catalysts for renewable biofuel production.
Robert Kranz, PhD, and Petra Levin, PhD, professors of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, were also named fellows by the American Academy of Microbiology this year.