WEST LAFAYETTE - A Purdue University researcher says a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health could help address an "urgent need" for a certain type of drug. Mohamed Seleem says the funding will support his research on whether two FDA-approved drugs could be repurposed to treat life-threatening drug-resistant bacteria.

Seleem, an associate professor of microbiology in Purdue's College of Veterinary Medicine, says his work is part of a push to help treat what the World Health Organization calls a "slow-motion tsunami" of drug-resistant infections. 

The funding will focus on auranofin, an FDA-approved drug, and ebselen, a clinical molecule. The school says auranofin, which is FDA-approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is effective against Clostridium difficile, which is a potentially-deadly form of diarrhea. Ebselen, which doesn't yet have a proven use, could be effective against MRSA.

Seleem has used previous funding to buy about 4,000 out-of-patent drugs to see if they can be repurposed. He says using existing drugs can help avoid the time-consuming and expensive approval process for treatments.

"It can take 15 years or longer to move a new drug through the approval pipelines," Seleem said. "The solution is to find drugs that we already know are safe."