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For Our Communities

Community Engagement Spotlight: Mina Pastagia, M.D.

My first exposure to laboratory-based research began as an undergraduate at St. John's University (SJU) in New York through a Minority in Biomedical Research Award. At SJU, I pursued a B.S. in Pharmacy, utilizing these skills as a clinical pharmacist at Montefiore Medical Center. While working with physicians treating patients with HIV/AIDS, I gained a greater appreciation of antibiotics and their powerful effects. To play a more active role in directing patient care, I enrolled in medical school and obtained my MD (SUNY Downstate, NY in 2002). I trained in Internal Medicine at Boston University and received board certification in 2005. I returned to New York to complete a Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai Medical Center in 2008. As an infectious disease doctor, I saw many patients with severe infections due to bacteria that were resistant to many of our usual antibiotics. Methiciliin-resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA) is one of these, and some of my patients returned with recurrent infections, or died from these infections. Consequently, I developed a strong interest in MRSA, both the laboratory science and the clinical problem, which led me to develop a translational project to dissect whether the MRSA strain alone was enough to predict whether a patient lived or died. Through studies of over 600 patients we discovered that mortality was related to clinical aspects of the infection rather than bacterial traits. My desire to extend this work with MRSA and to receive structured training in translational research prompted me to join the Clinical Scholars Program at the Rockefeller University (RU), under the mentorship of Dr. Vincent A. Fischetti, in the Laboratory of Immunology and Bacterial Pathogenesis.

Since joining the Clinical Scholars program at the Rockefeller University in 2008, I have been the primary co-investigator in the Fischetti lab responsible for the formulation of the new anti-staphylococcal agent, ClyS, into a topical ointment. This topical antibiotic would potentially be used to prevent and treat MRSA skin infections in humans. I have developed an animal model of MRSA skin infection, proven that ClyS is effective in this model, and designed tests to show that MRSA has not developed resistance to ClyS. I intend to continue these studies with topical ClyS in order to obtain the necessary pre-clinical data to enable me to test ClyS in human trials.

I am excited to expand my research interest in MRSA into the community sector. Several decades ago, MRSA was primarily a problem in hospitals, but Community-acquired MRSA has become exceedingly prevalent over the past several years, affecting even healthy individuals. Through a collaboration of The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science with Clinical Director's Network (CDN), I will participate in a project involving patients who come to their primary care doctors in the community with skin infections due to MRSA. Our hope is to gather enough clinical information to determine how we can improve patient outcomes and potentially prevent antibiotic resistance and further spread of MRSA. Outpatient clinics are a valuable source of clinical information and provide a real opportunity to improve the health of many individuals. I have been fortunate to be able to study the hospital epidemiology of MRSA, work on a novel therapeutic agent against MRSA, and now learn more about the effects of MRSA in communities.