The continuous emergence of drug-resistance pathogens is a global concern. As a result, substantial effort is being expended to develop new therapeutics and mechanisms for controlling microbial growth to avoid entering a "post-antibiotic" era in which commonly used antibiotics are no longer effective in treating infections. In this work, we investigate the efficacy and application of ceragenins as non-peptide mimics of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). First, this work examines the susceptibility of drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. The susceptibility of colistin-resistant clinical isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae to ceragenins and AMPs suggests that there is little to no cross-resistance between colistin and ceragenins/AMPs. Furthermore, Lipid A modifications are found in bacteria with modest changes in susceptibility to ceragenins and with high levels of resistance to colistin. Next, we investigated the potential for cross resistance between chlorhexidine, colistin, AMPs and ceragenins as repeated exposure of bacteria to chlorhexidine might result in cross resistance with colistin, AMPs or ceragenins. Furthermore, a proteomics study on the chlorhexidine-resistant strains showed that chlorhexidine resistance is associated with upregulation of proteins involved in the assembly of LPS for outer membrane biogenesis and virulence factors in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.Second, this dissertation describes the antifungal activity of ceragenins against an emerging multidrug-resistant fungus, Candida auris. We found that lead ceragenins displayed activities comparable to known antifungal agents against C. auris isolates. We also found that fungal cell morphology was altered in response to ceragenin treatment, that ceragenins exhibited activity against sessile organisms in biofilms, and that gel and cream formulations including CSA-44 and CSA-131 resulted in a significant log reduction against established fungal infections in ex vivo mucosal tissues. Finally, a hydrogel film containing CSA-131 was generated on endotracheal tubes (ETTs). ETTs provide an abiotic surface on which bacteria and fungi form biofilms that cause serious infections. In this study, the eluting ceragenin prevented fungal and bacterial colonization of coated ETTs for extended periods while uncoated tubes were colonized by bacteria and fungi. Coated tubes were well tolerated in intubated pigs. The ability of ceragenins to eradicate established biofilms make them attractive potential therapeutics for persistent infections in the lung, including those associated with cystic fibrosis. In ex vivo studies, we initially found that this ceragenin, at concentrations necessary to eradicate established biofilms, also causes loss of cilia function. However, by formulating CSA-131 in poloxamer micelles, cilia damage was eliminated and antimicrobial activity was unaffected. These findings suggest that CSA-131, formulated in micelles, may act as a potential therapeutic for polymicrobial and biofilm-related infections in the lung and trachea.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry

Date Submitted


Document Type





antimicrobial peptides, ceragenins, CSA-131, CSA-44, antimicrobial activity, antifungal activity, endotracheal tube, colistin-resistant bacteria, drug-resistant, Candida auris, cilia