Student and Professor Find New Antibiotic Alternative

Kent State University undergraduate student Jean Wilson Mutambuze and Jean Engohang-Ndong, Ph.D.,, are conducting a research project that has found a promising new alternative to manage a skin disease called Buruli Ulcer.

Kent State University undergraduate student Jean Wilson Mutambuze and Jean Engohang-Ndong, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences at Kent State University at Tuscarawas, are conducting a research project that has found a promising new alternative to manage a skin disease called Buruli Ulcer.

Buruli Ulcer is a skin ailment caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium ulcerans that affects the skin and sometimes bone. Buruli Ulcer has been reported in more than 30 countries, including many African countries.

A Promising Alternative

Engohang-Ndong and Mutambuze have been researching new drugs that could work against the bacterium.

“We have been testing new drugs and new combinations of drugs to eventually open new avenues to improve the treatment of Buruli Ulcer,” Engohang-Ndong said. “We want to come up with more alternatives than are available right now.”

Mutambuze said Sutezolid (PNU-100480) and BTZ043 are anti-tuberculosis drugs currently in the pipeline. However, they have found that the two drugs are more effective than streptomycin, a current recommended antibiotic by the World Health Organization for treating Buruli Ulcer.

“We have also shown that these two new antibiotics, in combination, seem to be more effective at inhibiting Mycobacaterium ulcerans growth when used in combination,” Mutambuze said. “What this means is that we may have found a new alternative and more effective ways to manage Buruli Ulcer, which is promising news for many people around the world suffering from this devastating disease.”

Student to researcher

Engohang-Ndong was already researching the disease when he met Mutambuze in 2011. Mutambuze liked the project and decided to make it part of his honors thesis due at the end of this semester.

“I never really thought about research until I attended the Aspiring Physicians and Research Scientists Conference at the Cleveland Clinic during my freshman year of college,” Mutambuze said. “Students my age were doing really complex and interesting projects, and those students really inspired me to get involved in research.”

Mutambuze said he decided to participate in Kent State’s Undergraduate Research Symposium because he wanted to hone in on what research field he wants to dedicate his future career to.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about other research areas that interest me,” Mutambuze said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about other student’s projects, get some research ideas and learn new approaches to solving scientific problems.”

Undergraduate Symposium on Research

The Undergraduate Research Symposium is on April 2 from 1 - 5 p.m. and is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Honors College, Research and Sponsored Programs, Undergraduate Studies and University Libraries. The symposium celebrates research and scholarship across all disciplines, and is an opportunity for undergraduate students to gain experience presenting their work in an academic setting and for networking with faculty members.

Students from other universities and undergraduate students from Kent State are also encouraged to participate. Monetary awards will be given out for winning presentations.

Mutambuze said he enjoys working with people and has a passion for science and medicine. When he graduates in May, he wants to attend medical school to pursue a combined MD-Ph.D. or MD at an institution with a rich research curriculum.

“This project is one of passion to me because the thought of my work being able to help people around the world is one that I take pride in,” Mutambuze said. “I believe I can make a positive impact in many people’s lives around the world through science and medicine.”

For more information on the Undergraduate Research Symposium, visit

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POSTED: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Monday, April 27, 2015 - 2:42pm
Bryan Webb