Published August 7, 2018
By 2050, antimicrobial resistant infections are projected to be a leading cause of death globally. At present, approximately 90% of diagnosed cases are in Asia and Africa. However, within a framework of global interconnectivity and international travel, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health equity challenge as well as a pressing public health concern for well-resourced countries such as the United States.
Sponsored by the Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE) at the University at Buffalo, an AMR research group—composed of Dr. Shamim Islam, whose background is in pediatric infectious disease; Dr. Jared Aldstadt, a health geographer who uses GIS and spatio-temporal analysis to track infectious diseases; and Dr. Diana Aga, a chemist with expertise in environmental chemical analysis—formed to begin addressing AMR. On May 2-3, 2018, CGHE and the AMR research group hosted a cross-disciplinary AMR workshop at UB with the intention of advancing the team’s research, as well as cultivating other UB faculty members’ interest in collaborative AMR research.
This workshop addressed a global knowledge gap: though the threat of AMR is commanding increasing attention amongst academics, AMR’s drivers and transmission dynamics remain largely unknown. We have many questions to answer: for example, how significant is AR organism transmission through the medium of water? What are the effects of naturally-occurring environmental phenomena such as monsoons and floods on the spread of AMR? How easily do livestock and human beings acquire AMR from ingested water and food, and how stable is this carriage? Embedded within the cross-cutting nature of these questions is a simple fact: interdisciplinary, collaborative efforts will be required to answer them.
Thus, unlike conventional AMR conferences comprising didactic lectures that target discrete groups such as clinicians/physicians, pharmacists, or environmental scientists, the CGHE AMR workshop invited guest participants with complementary cross disciplinary expertise with the express aim of advancing interdisciplinary collaboration.
International guest participants at the workshop included Dr. Dan I. Andersson from Uppsala University’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology; mathematical ecologist and epidemiologist Dr. Eili Klein from Johns Hopkins University; Rush University Hospital’s Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Latania Logan, who studies the clinical and molecular epidemiology of multidrug resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections in children; Dr. David G. White, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Food Science at the University of Tennessee; and Dr. Liqing Zhang, a computer scientist whose research centers on the development of computational and statistical tools that can process, analyze, and mine information from various kinds of complex biodata.
While academic symposia and conferences tend to transmit information in didactic lectures, this event’s format was designed to actively engage guest participants and UB attendees in the launch of collaborative, multidisciplinary research groups. Presentations and engaged discussion response sessions were interspersed on the first day, while the following day was largely devoted to a “think-tank” session in which core AMR faculty, along with our international guest speakers, began development of white papers that will ultimately make their way into proposals for external funding. Preliminary work currently underway as a direct result of this workshop includes a white paper being developed by lead author and UB School of Law Professor Jessica Owley, who will include as her co-authors Drs. Klein, Aga, Aldtsadt, Andersson, Islam, Logan, White, and Zhang. Further, this fall, the UB AMR team is planning to submit a NSF proposal related to their work in collaboration with the AMR workshop’s external partner attendees.
The AMR team is also deepening its collaborative relationship with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, and aims to submit external grants this fall to support this work as well.
Islam -- the AMR research group’s PI -- remarks that UB’s AMR workshop proved to be “an exceptional opportunity to build on existing collegial relationships, and forge new ones, with experts in the field of AMR. Having true scholastic leaders in AMR, from various critical backgrounds, including microbiological and clinical science, informatics, policy and law, particularly in a small-group forum, was distinctive and strikingly productive.” As to future directions, Islam indicates that the team is optimistic that they have “laid the groundwork for advancing several multidisciplinary projects that aim to answer fundamental questions about global AMR and the role of environmental factors, and also contain AMR’s expansion.”