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Mathematical Modeling of Antibiotics

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

- By Caroline Garrett, A&E Editor -

On Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., Meredith College hosted its 57th annual Faculty Distinguished Lecture in Jones Auditorium. In 1964, Carlyle Campbell, then-president of Meredith College, began the annual tradition of a lecture highlighting the research accomplishments of a particular faculty member. This year, Dr. Cammey Cole Manning, Professor of Mathematics and head of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, delivered a lecture entitled “Mathematical Modeling of Antibiotics: Should the Dose be the Same for Everyone?”.

Her lecture emphasized the importance of correct antibiotic dosage to reduce the development of resistant bacteria. Manning began the lecture with a demonstration by asking three of her students to fill a jar with M&Ms; except each student had a different sized jar, and only one jar was completely filled. This demonstration illustrated that people of varying body types and biological sex may be impacted by antibiotic doses in different ways. Her research utilized a specialized mathematical model called the physiologically-based pharmacokinetic model (PNPK model), combining differential equations, computer coding, and data analysis to discover differences between males and females and different body mass indexes (BMI’s) in absorption rates and responses to the antibiotic Ertapenem, commonly prescribed in hospitals.

Manning found that  females and people with a lower BMI have a shorter half-life of the drug and may have more side effects, while males and people of a higher BMI are at a higher risk for developing resistant bacteria. While much of her research required a mathematics background to understand, Manning effectively summarized her research results to be accessible to everyone. Manning hopes that this research will extend to different dosages and times per day depending on biological sex, BMI, and age and that ultimately, mathematical modeling will enable “effective treatment and overall wellbeing” for patients. Following the lecture, a reception was held in the Johnson Hall rotunda to celebrate Manning’s accomplishments and allow attendees to ask further questions about her work.


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