KSU student researcher explores arsenic's medicinal potential

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 26, 2024 

Shifa Maherali Jiwani
Shifa Maherali Jiwani
Shifa Maherali Jiwani is a freshman biology major who is participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), where she is studying arsenic as a potential medicine.

Jiwani is conducting her research, “Search for Novel Arsenic Containing Antibiotics,” in the lab of Masafumi Yoshinaga, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology in the College of Science and Mathematics.

As strange as it might sound, arsenic shows potential medicinal applications despite being known as the “king of poisons." Pathogens such as bacteria and viruses are becoming resistant to traditional antibiotics, so new antibiotics are urgently needed. 

The process through which the antibiotics become obsolete is called antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and this is the main focus of this project. For this project, Jiwani helped transform E. coli with a specific type of arsenic called arsMXYZ to create an arsenic containing peptide. She then performs various tests to check the antibiotic activity but still monitor possible toxicity from the arsenic. 

“Bacteria and viruses evolve over time and there are changes in their gene set,” Jiwani said. “One of the changes can be gaining resistance to drugs, an example we all saw was the development of new strains of COVID-19.”