CESAR A. ARIAS, MD, MSc, PhD, a clinician-scientist recognized for his substantial contributions to the field of antimicrobial research, is the recipient of IDSA’s 2013 Oswald Avery Award for Early Achievement. This honor recognizes members or fellows of IDSA age 45 or younger who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in an area of infectious diseases.
Dr. Arias leads the University of Texas Health Medical School Laboratory for Antimicrobial Research, which is studying the clinical and molecular aspects of antibiotic resistance, attempting to understand the complex mechanisms by which superbugs become resistant to antibiotics and then designing new strategies to fight them. He is also the founder and scientific director of the Molecular Genetics and Antimicrobial Resistance Unit at Universidad El Bosque in Bogota, Colombia. This research unit, created in 2000, has become a major surveillance center for resistance pathogens in Colombia. This collaborative work, derived from these two laboratories, has identified novel trends in antimicrobial resistance and has characterized the emergence of particular superbugs in the region.
His first major scientific contribution to the field of antimicrobial resistance began while attending graduate school at the University of Cambridge. This work leaded to a full and coherent picture of the mechanism of resistance to glycopeptides in enterococcal isolates, which synthesize D-serine as part of their cell walls. Dr. Arias’ elucidation of this novel pathway provided new insights into how bacteria adapt their metabolism to overcome the antibiotic pressure. The American Academy of Microbiology recognized his outstanding work and Dr. Arias received the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Young Investigator Award in 2002.
More recently, Dr. Arias has been examining the mechanism of resistance to daptomycin in clinical strains of vancomycin-resistant enterococci. In a landmark recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, his team was able to shot that daptomycin resistance in enterococci is directly linked to the mutations in two genes that are involved in the regulation of the cell envelope response to antibiotics and phospholipid metabolism. The paper formed the basis for a National Institutes of Health R01 grant, and is likely to have an immense impact in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of resistance to lipopeptide antibiotics in Gram-positive bacteria.
In addition to his outstanding research abilities, Dr. Arias is a dedicated clinician and attends on the infectious diseases consultation services at the Memorial Hermann Hospital at the Texas Medical Center and the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital. He also requests the opportunity to attend for two months a year on the general medicine service. Along with these duties, he finds time to teach students, residents, and fellows with creative teaching activities both at the bedside and in core curriculum conferences. Moreover, he participates in important international activities with countries in South America, maintaining a very strong education and research link with scientists overseas.
In 1992, he completed an MD from Universidad El Bosque in Columbia, received an MSc in clinical microbiology from the University of London in 1996, and earned a PhD in molecular biology and microbial chemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2000. He completed his residency in internal medicine and his fellowship in ID between the years of 2002 and 2008 from The University of Texas Medical School and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
For his innovative research, qualities as a clinician scientist, and strong commitment to promoting scientific progress in developing regions, IDSA is proud to honor Dr. Arias with the 2013 Oswald Avery Award for Early Achievement.
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