Combating Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment

AMR team with partners from icddr,b.

AMR team with partners from icddr,b in Bangladesh

With a projected 10 million deaths per year, antimicrobial resistant pathogens are predicted to be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050. Pharmaceutical development cannot keep pace with the problem. To combat these threats before they reach cities, hospitals, and homes, we work with international partners such as the icddr,b seeking out and deterring resilient pathogens in the farms, aquacultures, wastewaters, and other ecologies from which they spread.

What is Antimicrobial Resistance?

By Diana Aga

According to the WHO, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society. Without effective antibiotics, prevention and treatment of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi and the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised. Health care costs would increase as length of stay in normal and intensive care increases. The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis; it is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.

The emergence and spread of AMR outside hospitals can be exacerbated by various environmental factors such as the continuous discharge of antimicrobial drug residues, antibiotic resistance genes, and antibiotic resistant bacteria from hospital, municipal, and agricultural wastewaters. In addition, the widespread non-clinical use of antimicrobials in apple and pear orchards, aquaculture, and animal production can promote the development of AMR in commensal bacteria, which may later transfer antibiotic resistance genes to pathogenic bacteria that will eventually infect humans. To combat the spread of antibiotic resistant pathogens, the AMR Team will comprehensively investigate the environmental sources and drivers of AMR, and advance the methods of global AMR surveillance.

“Antibiotic resistance is a global problem, and a lot of researchers are trying to fight it by creating new drugs...we are looking at the problem from a different angle: We are trying to prevent its spread.”

Diana Aga, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry

Our Working Solutions

  • Understand and Control AMR Emergence and Spread from Aquaculture
    Laguna Bay, Phlippines, is the the largest lake in the Philippines surrounded by poultry and swine farms. 55% of smallholder farmers and 59% of commercial farms dump their untreated effluent into the lake. This water is a  source of tap water in nearby residential areas.
  • Understand and Control AMR Emergence and Spread from Hospital and Municipal Wastewater
    Residues of antimicrobial drugs and their metabolites, antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARBs), are continuously introduced into the aquatic environment from hospital wastewater discharges and municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents. However, current literature lacks an understanding of the role of antibiotic resistance (AR) elements from the environment on the proliferation and dissemination of AR in a human population that is directly impacted by these wastewater-contaminated waters.

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Our work is done in collaboration with many talented community partners. We list these partners on the affiliated project pages.