New science minister announces ‘war cabinet’ to tackle antimicrobial resistance on all fronts

*after much haranguing, finally another post from Will Gaze!*

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a hot topic at the moment and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recently issued a press release giving details of a cross-research council initiative to tackle the problem. On their website, they give seven case studies as examples of research funded by UK research councils. Work by both our lab and collaborative work at the University of Warwick makes up a significant part of the research showcased in the NERC press release. This demonstrates the importance of our work and more importantly the significance of the environmental dimension of antibiotic resistance.

Research in Will Gaze’s group, carried out by Dr Lihong Zhang (photo below, right) and PhD students Aimee Murray (foreground) and Anne Leonard (middle background), was used in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences research Council (BBSRC) case study. Aimee is jointly funded by AstraZeneca and the BBSRC and is studying whether environmental concentrations of antibiotics excreted by people and animals can select for antibiotic resistance in polluted river catchments.penryn10

Lihong and Anne’s work was also mentioned in this section even though it was actually funded by the European Regional development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund. They have shown that there is a significant human exposure risk to AMR bacteria in coastal bathing waters in England and Wales, including to clinically important genes that confer resistance to front line drugs. Andrew Balfour who is currently studying for an MRes in molecular microbiology at the University of Bath was also involved in this research during a summer voluntary work placement. He will be co-author on two publications which shows the value of voluntary lab work!

The NERC case study is also work connected to the group. Lihong and I used to work at the University of Warwick in Liz Wellington’s lab and the research discussed was done by a former PhD student, Greg Amos, who I co-supervised and Lihong mentored. Greg has done really well and has made some important discoveries on the impact of waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) on reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria in rivers (Amos et al 2014). He is currently revising another paper submitted to ISME Journal, one of the top ecology / microbiology journals, which models the drivers of AMR reservoirs in sediment on a river catchment scale. We show that 50% of the prevalence of a molecular marker of resistance is associated with size, type and distance from WWTPs.The NERC case study been picked up by the press and is the subject of a NERC Planet Earth Article.

Will Gaze

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