£3m grant to tackle superbugs in a global context

Published: 22 June 2018

Researchers at the University of Glasgow, together with colleagues in Tanzania and collaborators from North America, have been awarded £3m to conduct research into antimicrobial resistance

Researchers at the University of Glasgow, together with colleagues in Tanzania and collaborators from North America, have been awarded £3m to conduct research into antimicrobial resistance (AMR).‌‌

The grant, one of four ‘AMR in a Global Context Consortia’ awards announced today by the Medical Research Council (MRC), has been jointly funded by the cross-research council AMR initiative and the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Global Health Research Programme.

The project, led by the University’s Professor Ruth Zadoks, will be 'Supporting the National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance (SNAP-AMR) in Tanzania'.

The three-year award will draw together a highly interdisciplinary research group at the University of Glasgow with researchers and policy makers in Tanzania.

The Glasgow-led consortium will use a range of research approaches, including anthropology, economics, genome sequencing, and human and veterinary medicine to understand the social, cultural and economic drivers around antibacterial use as well as the main sources of antibacterial resistance (ABR) across different communities in Tanzania.

The consortium will operate across a range of health systems and community settings with a variety of livestock keeping practices, allowing a unique comparison of geographical, economic and social contexts, to better inform future interventions to prevent the spread of infections and AMR in Tanzania and beyond.

Professor Zadoks said: “Whilst AMR is a recognized threat to human and animal health around the world, the issue is particularly complex in a country like Tanzania, where the pressure to reduce the use of antimicrobials must be balanced with the need for better access to medical treatment and life-saving drugs.

“Our collaboration with Tanzanian partners will enable us to gain a deep understanding of opportunities and barriers for responsible use of medicines in human and veterinary medicine and will help to guide policy and practice aimed at sustainable use of antimicrobials in people and the livestock on whom many communities depend.”

Dr Jonathan Pearce, Head of Infections and Immunity at the MRC, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a complex and fast evolving issue for healthcare and agriculture worldwide. It’s a problem that cannot be dealt with by one country acting alone, so these kinds of international, collaborative research projects are absolutely crucial to developing our understanding and finding solutions.

“There are worrying gaps in our understanding of the spread and transmission of drug resistant infections, the factors driving such resistance, and how these factors are influenced by, and interact with, different environments. The challenge is exacerbated by rapidly increasing urbanisation, poverty and inequalities, conflict and fragility, changing patterns of food production and expanding globalisation, which means data and insight is missing from the countries and communities who need it most.

It is predicted that AMR will kill more people than cancer by 2050 worldwide if we do not come together to find a solution. We must act before it is too late.”

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Health and Social Care, said: “AMR is a multidimensional global health issue which has the potential of creating a disproportionate health and economic burden on low and middle income countries (LMICs).

“The NIHR, working in partnership with the cross-research council AMR initiative, is pleased to be supporting four multidisciplinary consortia to identify the factors driving microbial resistance in LMICs and contribute to the development of context-specific interventions to tackle this global health challenge.”

The three other awards go to teams at the University of Bristol, the University of St. Andrews and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and are the result of a raft of innovative development awards and workshops to improve capacity and collaboration in both the UK and partner countries.

The project will go on to contribute to the UK’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Research Councils’ contribution will be made through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which supports cutting edge research addressing the problems faced by developing countries. The NIHR contribution will be made through its Global Health Research ODA allocation which is aimed at supporting internationally-outstanding applied research for the direct and primary benefit of patients and the public in LMICs.

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 22 June 2018

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