Robert Bonomo, M.D.

Headshot of Robert Bonomo

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which develops when harmful bacteria and other damaging microorganisms become resistant to the antibiotics that once killed them, threatens to undo many of the powerful health gains achieved by these “life-saving” drugs. The problem arises from overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock and is recognized by the World Health Organization as a chief challenge to global health.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least of two million people nationwide become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and more than 25,000 succumb to these infections. In addition to the biomedical havoc that it wreaks, AMR adds as much as $20 billion per year in direct health care costs nationally, according to the CDC.

Robert A. Bonomo, MD, professor of medicine, pharmacology, biochemistry, molecular biology and microbiology at the School of Medicine, has dedicated his research career to addressing this mounting problem.

Among his investigations, Dr. Bonomo works to uncover the genetic and amino acid determinants of bacterial enzymes that create multi-resistance to such widely used antibiotics as penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems. Nailing down these sequences and using an integrated approach can lead to new medications that overcome the antibiotic resistance.  And his work is paying off. Because of his collaboration with colleagues at CWRU and elsewhere, six new antimicrobials have been approved to date.

“We’re always trying to stay a step ahead of the bacteria,” he said. “Evolution rewards organisms that adapt to their environments, including those that fend off antibiotics, so there is a fundamental natural mechanism that we have to overcome.” 

One of the recipients of the School of Medicine’s inaugural Master Teacher award in 2009, he has trained and mentored students and fellows who have gone on to achieve singular distinction throughout health care.

Widely recognized for his accomplishments, Dr. Bonomo has served on numerous national, international,  and Case Western Reserve University and medical school committees, aided the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, international scientific societies in developing documents on AMR and testified before the U.S. Congress on this burgeoning problem. And he was included on the list of the most cited world scientists (top 1%) for 2018 by Clarivate, according to Reuters.