Brighton joins global efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance

The university’s Professor Huw Taylor has joined world experts to draw up an action plan to fight antimicrobial resistant (AMR) disease transmission through the water cycle.

More than 700,000 people worldwide die every year from infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the threat is increasing every year. A UK government report warns that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide will be suffering from life-threatening infections from these bacteria if the issue is not urgently tackled.

Professor Taylor, Professor of Microbial Ecology, in 2015 led an international team that advised the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to address the potential spread of Ebola through the water cycle through improved emergency sanitation measures.

He is now lending his expertise to this new world-wide effort to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance and recently joined a host of experts at a meeting in the Netherlands organised by the WHO and KWR, a leading international water research institute.

The aim is to help the WHO draw up an action plan against the spread of antimicrobial resistance through the water cycle. The experts in antimicrobial resistance and water were brought together because the aquatic environment is increasingly recognised to be a potential transmission route for AMR.

Antimicrobial resistance arises in many sectors, for example, through the use of antibiotics in meat production and by the often unnecessary prescription of antibiotics to humans. The water cycle then plays a (not as yet fully understood) role in the spread of resistance through the discharge of AMR organisms genes and residues into the aquatic environment, potentially leading to human exposure and, consequently, life-threatening disease (through drinking, swimming, irrigation of crops and aquaculture).

The WHO is keen to direct greater attention towards the potential role of the water cycle in the transmission of antimicrobial resistance but greater knowledge is needed about pollution sources, transmission pathways and human exposure, as well as about the ability of water and wastewater treatment technologies to remove agents of AMR.

Professor Taylor said: “The work of researchers in the University’s Aquatic Research Centre is increasingly recognised for its contribution to preventing human waterborne disease, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO’s efforts to understand and explain how AMR may be transmitted share the ‘One Health’ approach to disease transmission that underlies our current collaborations on human waterborne disease in Kenya and India. We therefore welcome this opportunity to contribute to such an important global initiative.”

For more information on Professor Taylor and his research, go to: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/staff/huw-taylor.aspx

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