We're confident that Dr. Margaret "Peg" Riley, a professor at UMass Amherst, will be victorious in the Battle of the Bug.

She has 25 years of experience studying microbial defense systems, the techniques that microbes, which constitute 9 out of 10 cells in the human body, employ to kill bacteria. Dr. Riley has trained a generation of specialists and speaks about deadly bacterial pathogens as if they were cuddly golden retriever puppies placed in stockings at Christmas. Her favorite bacteria is E-coli, which she claims has gotten “a bad rap through NPR” and is not to be feared, but revered.  We're glad that we've got Dr. Riley in our corner, wielding her microscope, when it comes to fighting the war on superbugs.


Much like ground wars are often fought to defend or shift social, political, or economic paradigms, the ultimate goal of Dr. Riley’s teaching and advocacy is to shift the way the world views the reigning paradigm of antibiotics.  In nature, microbes produce “narrow spectrum” defense systems. In other words, they only kill bacteria that are directly threatening their lives. But when we treat pathogenic bacteria in our own bodies, hospitals generally rely on “broad spectrum antibiotics” to neutralize all possible infections. Unfortunately, bacteria tend to develop resistance to broad spectrum drugs and become superbugs, or totally drug resistant pathogens. Dr. Riley wants to shift dominant medical thinking from one that contributes to the creation of these superbugs, to antibiotic treatment that emulates the targeted elimination approach microbes use in nature. 

Will Dr. Riley defeat the superbugs and save us all from the proliferation of totally drug resistant pathogens? Wash your hands thoroughly and tune into "Microbial Defense Systems" to find out.

- Lee Stephenson, Production Associate

Read more about Dr. Riley and her research here: http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/about/directories/faculty/margaret-riley

AuthorChris Duffy