Monika Kumaraswamy, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine / Infectious Diseases

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Dr. Kumaraswamy earned a Bachelor of Science in both Microbiology and Chemistry, a minor in Spanish and graduated summa cum laude with honors from Northern Arizona University. She then pursued a medical degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin prior to completing an internal medicine residency at Case Western Reserve University, subspecialty infectious diseases fellowship training at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and obtaining board certifications in both internal medicine and infectious diseases. Following completion of her infectious diseases fellowship, Dr. Kumaraswamy became an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCSD, infectious diseases attending physician at both the VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) and UCSD Health, and the Hospital Epidemiologist and Head of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) at the VASDHS.

Research Interests:  Current antibiotic practices are unsustainable due to the spread of antimicrobial resistance and lack of new antibiotic classes. Perhaps most poignantly put by the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” Apart from the development of novel antibiotics, alternative strategies need to be embraced to tackle multi-drug resistant infections. Completely unaccounted for in the current antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) paradigm are the many dynamic interactions that occur among the bacterial pathogen, potential antimicrobial agents and components of the host innate immune system, such as endogenous antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), serum complement and phagocytic cells including neutrophils and macrophages.

In our ongoing research, we have adopted a “two-tier testing” approach to AST (TTT) incorporating not only the bacterial pathogen and antimicrobial agent, but also the abovementioned components of host defense. Through this analysis, we have discovered striking bactericidal activity of current FDA-approved antibiotics which themselves have no activity in standard laboratory AST testing, but rather function to dramatically sensitize MDR pathogens to innate immune factors, as proven in checkerboard and kinetic AMP killing assays, ex vivo serum and phagocytic cell killing assays, and in vivo models of MDR infection. This knowledge may inspire a rethinking of the utility of “forgotten” antibiotics in adjunctive therapy of difficult infections by enhancing the innate immune system's contribution to bacterial clearance and could rapidly be implemented in the clinical setting.