PhD Thesis Investigates Antibiotic Resistance
Dr Nicholas Agyepong graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutics following a study on Molecular Profile of Gram-negative ‘ESKAPE’ Pathogens from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana under the supervision of Professor Sabiha Essack and Drs Alex Owusu-Ofori and Usha Govinden.
According to Agyepong, antibiotic resistance is a global problem that is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘This has led to bacterial infections becoming a major cause of morbidity and mortality, commonly due to ESKAPE (Enterococcus spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter spp) pathogens,’ he said.
The study examined the mechanisms of resistance among Gram-negative ESKAPE pathogens from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana and identified the genes encoding resistance for different classes of antibiotics.
‘P. aeruginosa and K. pneumoniae were found to be the most predominant bacterial pathogens. The study revealed the presence of ß-lactamase genes in diverse combinations with non-ß-lactamase resistance genes among the pathogens. The Gram-negative ESKAPE bacteria were multidrug and extensively-drug resistant. Meropenem was noted as the most effective ß-lactam antibiotic (the safest and cheapest) against this group of bacteria in Ghana.’
According to Agyepong, the whole genome sequence (WGS) technology used to elucidate the resistance genes was the first of its kind in Ghana. He added that the findings are a wake-up call for urgent antibiotic stewardship and control interventions in Ghana and will also inform strategies to contain antibiotic resistance across the region.
He experienced some challenges during his study, including the fact that the scholarship he received from the College of Health Sciences did not cover some critical aspects of the research, such as hands-on WGS training. His future plans include lecturing and research.
Agyepong said that his family is proud and grateful to the Almighty for his achievement. In his free time, he listens to gospel music and the saying the words: ‘where there is no adversity, there can be no advancement’ keep him going.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal