Become a Collaborator!

The Gonorrhea Eradication Team and Integration Task-force (GETit) started with Co-founders Craig and Ami and an excited hour-long phone conversation in December, 2012. What started as a question “Do you want to work on a really cool project?” turned into a set intention and a path toward an extremely exciting project to eradicate antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.

After months of meeting over the phone, Craig and Ami created a solid plan of action. They would begin the work to create a small pilot program to provide proof-of-concept research for their potential new therapy. They purchased materials and started conducting background research. As more participants came to the project, more work was able to be done and the project picked up momentum. GETit is now a volunteer group of experienced citizen scientists working to foster healthy communities through innovative medical research. Our team includes PhD-, Master- and Bachelor-level scientists.

Program Overview

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sexually transmitted pathogen that causes gonorrhea, has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs used to treat it. Within the past 40 years, this pathogen has developed resistance to 3rd-generation, cephalosporin antibiotics which are ultimately the last line of defense against this bacterium. Antibiotic resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (ARNG) is therefore a growing public health concern. In the United States, this concern is exacerbated by the fact that primary treatments for gonorrheal infections are solely antibiotic-based. Currently, CDC STD treatment guidelines recommend dual therapy with the injectable cephalosporin ceftriaxone and either azithromycin or doxycycline to treat all uncomplicated gonococcal infections among adults and adolescents in the United States. These treatments have been mostly successful, but given the ability of ARNG to develop antibiotic resistance, it is critical to continuously research and develop new treatment regimens for gonorrhea. Here, we propose research into bacteriophage isolated from N. gonorrhoeae for use as potential antimicrobial agents in treating ARNG.

Bacteriophage therapy, the use of viruses that infect bacteria as antimicrobials against bacterial infections, is a promising alternative to conventional antibiotics. The Gonorrhea Eradication Team and Integration Taskforce (GETit), was created to meet the needs of a rapidly changing public health field in which traditional antibiotic-based therapies are becoming ineffective. Using antibiotic resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (ARNG) as our model, we propose a pilot program in which we:

(1) isolate and characterize clinical samples of antibiotic sensitive and antibiotic
resistant strains of N. gonorrhoeae,
(2) isolate and characterize N. gonorrhoeae-derived bacteriophage from clinical
isolates, and
(3) conduct proof-of-concept experiments in which N. gonorrhoeae- derived phage
cocktails are used to lyse clinical samples of ARNG in vitro.

Besides being the second-most commonly reported bacterial STD, Gonorrhea has increasingly become resistant to available medications. Antibiotic Resistant N. gonorrhoeae (ARNG) is rising fast in the gay/bi men’s community (CDC).

Gonorrhea can cause serious, long-term damage and sterility. Also, it makes it easier for both contractors to get HIV (because of tissue inflammation) and give HIV (there is more HIV in semen and vaginal fluids when a person is infected with gonorrhea). Antibiotic resistant Gonorrhea is therefore a growing public health concern. In the United States, this concern is exacerbated by the fact that primary treatments for gonorrheal infections are solely antibiotic-based. It is crucial to continuously monitor antibiotic resistant Gonorrhea while researching and developing new, non-antibiotic treatment regimens.

Screening and Phage Therapy

We are outreaching to clinics to gather participants in our Pilot Program. Patients who test positive for gonorrhea in local clinics will be given a pamphlet with an anonymous patient ID which they can then use to enroll in our study.

From these samples we will harvest and characterize the viruses that infect Gonorrhea. Bacterial viruses (bacteriophages or phages: viruses that infect only bacteria) are present in all species of bacteria and when active, have the potential to kill or ‘shut down’ their bacterial host. Infecting Gonorrhea with its own bacteriophage can cause the bacteria to lyse. While gonorrhea is fighting its phage infection, your body will have time to generate a natural immune response to your gonorrhea infection. Bacteriophage therapy is already being used for other infectious diseases including tuberculosis and with your commitment, we can make this new gonorrhea treatment a reality!

Of course there are biological roadblocks to the success of this therapy. For example, bacteriophage evolve quickly, and over-lysis of gram negative bacteria can have detrimental effects to the host. We have mechanisms for controlling lysis and we will research mechanisms through which phage and/or host evolution does not prevent our treatments success.

There are many ways to participate in this project! By contributing funds you can either support our lab rental, fund our equipment and reagent purchases, or fund our screening program. You can also participate by coming to our weekly meetings and lending your scientific brain to the project.